February 25, 2013
On Monday morning, February 25, 2013, over one hundred Women of the Wall gathered for the holiday of Purim at the Western Wall (Kotel), to read the Megillah, the Book of Esther. Though the group has been plagued by mid-prayer arrests by police for over six months at the Holy site, today’s prayer gathering went peacefully. The holiday celebrations at the holy site even had a cheerful mood, with the one major exception being the noticeable absence of Rabbi Susan Silverman, who was removed and restrained from the holy site for 15 days following her February 11, 2013 detainment by police for wearing a prayer shall (tallit). Rabbi Silverman stood vigil outside of the Western Wall Plaza, waiting for her family, who were inside supporting Women of the Wall.
The holiday of Purim was celebrated by the group of women at the Western Wall with all of the traditional elements: costumes, laughter, joy and the reading of the Book of Esther, a story with a strong, Jewish heroine. The site was crowded with many visitors and worshippers and there were no altercations or disturbances, with police, onlookers or otherwise.
The pure peace and joy of the morning’s celebrations, prompted Women of the Wall Chair, Anat Hoffman, to write a letter to Natan Sharansky, Director of the Jewish Agency, who has been appointed by Prime Minister Netanyahu to make recommendations for resolving the conflict at the holy site. Hoffman wrote, “Just as this morning’s megillah reading went peacefully, so could Torah reading be calm and quiet.” She continues, “We know the Rabbi Rabinowitz (Chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation) does not share our feelings. He is thinks that the way to avoid a violent outburst at the Kotel is to stop our group from praying according to our traditions. We firmly assert that the way to prevent violence is stop the violent bullies… but this is a harder task than detaining women, again and again, mid-prayer.”
Women are forbidden from reading Torah at the Western Wall, due to a law that requires worshippers to behave and pray according to the “local tradition”, in this case defined at ultra-Orthodox tradition. Women of the Wall Director, Lesley Sachs, adds, “the fact that women read megillah at the Kotel today as we have for over twenty years, and there were no arrests, proves that Women of the Wall are the local tradition and should be considered as such.”