Barricades and Locks prevent women and Bnot Mitzvah girls from reading Torah at the Western Wall on Rosh Chodesh Sivan

May 19, 2015


A day after the celebrations of Jerusalem’s reunification, Women of the Wall were refused access to pray with a Torah Scroll at the Western Wall in their monthly prayer. Under directions from Rabbi Rabinowitz, police set up barricades and locked the partition to prevent women from reading Torah. One man was detained while attempting to hand over Torah to women.

Six girls who had come after intensive preparations to celebrate their Bat Mitzvah were not able to read from the Torah.

Anat Hoffman: “Rabbi of the Wall may congratulate himself on a victory today. He has successfully prevented hundreds of Jewish women from reading Torah. On one of the hottest days of the year, he was also able to rain on the bat mitzvah celebration of six twelve year old girls who were prepared to read from the Torah today. The Rabbi may call the office of the Prime Minister of Israel, who is the main source of funding for the Rabbi’s western wall heritage foundation, and declare victory. Women did not read Torah today at the holiest site of the Jewish people.”

After an historical prayer last month on Rosh Chodesh Iyar when women set a precedent by reading from a public Torah scroll, Women of the Wall’s Rosh Chodesh Sivan prayer this morning (May 19th, 2015) was dampened by locks and barricades preventing women the right to read from a Torah scroll.

For 26 years, Women of the Wall are fighting for freedom of religion at the Western Wall. This includes the right to read from a Torah at the Western Wall and to celebrate Bat Mitzvahs. The April 2013 Sobel court ruling formally acknowledged women’s right to pray according to their belief at the Western Wall, claiming that this does not violate “local custom”.

Despite the ruling, regulations set by Rabbi Rabinowitz deny women the right to bring a Torah scroll to read from at the Western Wall. These regulations, were brought up first as having the innocent goal of preventing theft of Torah scrolls from the wall (no such has ever occurred there but all the same, theft prevention was the handy excuse). The real reason for the regulation is “to stop people from reading Torah in a way that is not according to local custom” hence – Women of the Wall. And indeed, while there are over 100 Torah scrolls for public use at the Western Wall, they are all at the men’s section of the prayer plaza and women are denied access to them all.

Despite the regulations, Women of the Wall insist to fulfill their right to read from a Torah at the Kotel. This October, a historical moment was achieved as the first Bat Mitzvah was completed with a Torah reading, from a miniature Torah scroll brought in through security. Last month, Women of the Wall again read from the Torah, by accessing one of the Torah scrolls from the men’s section with the carefully planned help of male supporters.

This morning, however, Rabbi Rabinowitz had his victory over the 12-year-old girls who were denied their right to read from a Torah at the Kotel on occasion of their Bat Mitzvah. Just a day after the city celebrated the historical liberation of the Western Wall, Jewish people in Israel and around the world were once more reminded that the holy site is still not a place they can freely pray according to their tradition. The Western Wall has been hijacked from being a national site welcoming Jews of all denominations to becoming run by an ultra-orthodox minority, with regulations discriminating against women at the site.

The August 2010 regulation is a stain on Israeli law and entire legal system. Women of the Wall, with support of Jewish communities worldwide, act to abolish the regulation and allow women to pray with a Torah scroll at the Western Wall.

Women of the Wall will celebrate Rosh Hodesh Tamuz on June 18h.

For 25 years Women of the Wall has continued to fight for religious freedom and women’s rights at the Western Wall. As Women of the Wall, our central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.

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