Despite security concerns, Women of the Wall determined to pray and read Torah at the Kotel.

October 13, 2015

2 Bat Mitzvah ceremonies scheduled for Wednesday October 14, 2015 in the women’s section.

As a wave of violence washes over Israel, many Israelis are fearful and unwilling to go to Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall. Women of the Wall will be taking extra precautions, but remain determined as ever to pray and read Torah in the women’s section of the Kotel, as the group has done each month for the last 26 years. Despite serious security concerns, the women will gather for Rosh Hodesh Heshvan prayers on October 14, 2015 at 7AM, and will celebrate two bat mitzvah ceremonies. Two young women, one from Brazil and one from the United States, have arrived in Israel after months of planning and training, to celebrate their bat mitzvah with the hopes of reading Torah and blessing a Torah at the Kotel.

The illusive Torah scroll, which the Women of the Wall have been forced to smuggle into the Kotel past security each month, as Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, appointed administrator of the Western Wall, prohibits women from accessing the Torah scrolls at the Kotel.

Yesterday, Anat Hoffman sent a letter to Rabinowitz to let him know that the leadership of Women of the Wall has decided, out of a deep sense of responsibility, not to attempt to smuggle a Torah scroll in to the Kotel this month, so as not to challenge the security forces during this time of high threat levels. Hoffman repeated a request she has made many times before: allow women to use one of the hundreds of Torah scrolls at his disposal, for Rosh Hodesh and these important bat mitzvah ceremonies. Rabinowitz runs a lucrative bar mitzvah trade on the men’s side of the Western Wall while denying women this right, despite the guarantee of equal rights to worship made by the Sobel Decision in April 2013. Hoffman writes, “I hope that you will receive this request in the spirit of understanding and reconciliation.”

In the months leading up to Rosh Hodesh Heshvan the Women of the Wall Torah, which Rabinowitz has repeatedly banned from entering the Kotel, has been given a new home. Bob and Sheila Friedland, Women of the Wall supporters from New York, dreamed up and created an Aron Kodesh, a holy ark, which has now arrived in Israel. Bob Friedland is an amateur carpenter and the WOW Aron Kodesh is his sixth creation of this kind, his third sent to be used in Israel. The WOW Torah has never had a permanent place to be held and, prohibited from entering the Kotel, it was in storage in the Davidson Center at Robinson’s Arch, where a leak from the rain caused water damage to the Torah. The now repaired Women of the Wall Torah is in its new home, the ark which was hand crafted and sent across the ocean to Israel, by Friedland. Of the ark he said, “It was a labor of love. I feel that I am contributing in one small part to Women of the Wall, a movement of great importance and meaning. Nothing could mean more to me than that.” It is the sincere hope of Sheila and Bob Friendland and Women of the Wall that this special handmade Aron Kodesh and the Torah will one day be given a permanent home in the women’s section of the Kotel, for women to use freely and joyously.

For 26 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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