The following is a letter from the IRAC newsletter from Women of the Wall Chair and IRAC Executive Director, Anat Hoffman
Yesterday four women were detained at the Western Wall, each for wearing a tallit. The authorities say they were disturbing the public peace according to regulation 201 A4 of the Israeli legal code. The punishment for this crime is six months in prison. They also broke regulation 287A by performing a religious act that “offends the feelings of others.” The punishment for this crime is up to two years in prison.
When these four women wore their tallitot they challenged the division at the Western Wall. This is a place where men pray, dance, sing, sound the Sofar, read Torah, celebrate b’nei mitzvah, wave the lulov, and express their Judaism in any way they wish. Women, on the other side of the partition, stand silently in the little space that remains.
IRAC fights all layers of gender segregation in Israel, and I believe that the Kotel is ground-zero in the fight against gender exclusion. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us, one of the main strategies of non-violent struggle is to “dramatize” the injustice. There is a real need for drama to actualize how far the situation of women in the public sphere in Israel today is from the dream of the State’s founders. Israel’s founding document, our Declaration of Independence, had a vision of full equality for all the citizens of Israel irrespective of religion, race, or gender.
According to that vision, we are working to create a reality that is currently hard for Israelis to even imagine. In this we mean a Kotel where Israeli families will be able to pray together as a family, a Kotel where families can celebrate a bat mitzvah, a Kotel where egalitarian services can be held proudly, instead of hidden out of view from the Western Wall Plaza. I want to live to see it and for that I need your help.
The key to changing the status quo is in the hands of the authoritative that run the Kotel, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. This is why IRAC and the IMPJ are about to go to Israel’s Supreme Court to demand a change in the make-up of the Western Wall Heritage Council, which is currently made up completely of Orthodox Jews. We want this body to resemble the real diversity of the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora.
Click here to sign our Kotel petition asking for the Western Wall Heritage Council to include a diverse membership. After you have signed it please help us collect signatures by forwarding this email, using our special tell-a-friend link, or by clicking here and then forwarding that link to as many of your friends as you can. We have over 10,000 names already, and we will reach our goal of 50,000 if everyone helps us get five more names. With that kind of support the Israeli Government will see that we cannot be ignored. Days like yesterday must stop.
Executive Director, IRAC