As we celebrate the month of Elul, we prepare spiritually for the High
Holidays as they approach us. In most communities, synagogues and prayer groups all over the world the Shofar can be heard, awakening our spirits and inspiring us at the start of each weekday.
But one shofar was silenced on Rosh Chodesh Elul and it was the shofar of Women of the Wall as we prayed the morning prayer at the Kotel. Like every year, we aimed to conclude that part of the service at the Kotel with the beautiful sound of our shofar, but as the months leading up to Elul showed us, the police and our opponents have rules and aims of their own. Before the shofar could be blown by Women of the Wall, it was confiscated by police. In response, all of the women joined in song, and loudly sang out the sound that their shofar was forbidden to make. Only once we left the Western Wall Plaza was the shofar returned to its rightful owners.
We have been blowing shofar at the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh Elul for many, many years with no incident. This ritual is in no way a violation of law or supreme court decree. The escalation on Rosh Chodesh Elul is a clear sign that both the police and our ultra-Orthodox adversaries have taken another step to limiting women’s freedoms to pray at the Kotel. Not only are women not allowed to carry a Torah or wear a tallit, but now we can not blow shofar, either. What will be next?
The silenced shofar is an symbol of the silenced voices of women at the Kotel. Though our picture is painted as one of women who keep provoking the ultra-Orthodox, we at Women of the Wall have practiced the same traditions month after month and year after year. It is the police who change their ordinances and standards each month as they defend ultra-Orthodox control over the Kotel.
Though our Rosh Chodesh Elul services at the Kotel lacked the sweet call of the shofar, we were still prayed, 200 women strong. We raised our voices and sang over the less pleasant sounds of opposition.
This month and through the High Holidays until Simchat Torah, we are asking you to use your voice to help make Women of the Wall be heard. By sending pictures and letters to Israeli government leaders and officials through our website, https://womenofthewall.org.il/take-a-stand, you can take a stand with Women of the Wall on these important issues of religious freedom at the Kotel.