Freeing the Captive

By Alli Cohen, from her blog, Praying4Pluralism

Father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, once stated, “We are organizing Jewry for its coming destiny.” Herzl’s statement, made before the establishment of Israel, still applies to today. While we now have the “longed for” state of Israel, the Jewish people continue striving to make Eretz Yisrael a better place for future generations.

Tonight will be the seventh night of Chanukkah, and while we remember the faith we placed in  G-d during the battles waged long ago, it is easy to recognize that same faith today–faith that we the Women of the Wall will make a difference, spark change, and maybe one day guide us to religious pluralism. Today, there were four detainments at the Kotel. Although there is no law stating that women’s use of tallitot are illegal, the detainments persist. Among the detainees was:  Rabbi Elyse Frishman.


                L to R: Alli Cohen & Rabbi Frishman outside Kislev Police Station

Outside of Kislev Police Station, I waited for all four of these women, of all ages and from all backgrounds, to be released. After much difficulty, the police allowed us to sit on the public benches outside of the station. As a group of us waited anxiously, we sang, our voices together in solidarity. One by one each detainee was released, and between each one, we held our breath. We were told that decisions regarding detainment needed to be made prior to the four hours before Shabbat, which were approaching fast. We just wanted everyone safe together again, hoping that no one would have to remain overnight. Songs of Israel, peace, community and G-d cut through the cold, bitter air. One of the Netzer Olami (International Reform Zionist Youth Movement of the World Union of Progressive Judaism) students received a text from one of their female peers being detained within the station, saying that she could hear our voices! I imagined being in her position and was proud that we were doing everything possible to let her know she was being supported.

After all women were released, Chariwoman of Women of the Wall Anat Hoffman said the prayer of matir asurim: Praise to you, A. our G-d, Sovereign of the universe, who frees the captive. Each brave woman stood with us again without having signed any agreement for what police labeled as action that “disturbed the peace”. Even more, each woman demonstrated bravery for standing up for what they believe in. Their voices are an inspiration for all of Women of the Wall.

The Al Hanisim prayer for Hanukkah that we had sung, both at the morning service and while waiting for the detainees, had taken on a new meaning. While the prayer says we give thanks “for the victories, and for the battles You waged for our ancestors in these days at this time,” it was as if our faith in G-d helped us to wage our current battle. Theodor Herzl’s quote still holds true as Women of the Wall continues to organize Jewry for generations to come, hoping to make public sites such as the Western Wall truly a place for all. Just like the Maccabees, we continue to fight for freedom and equality.


Music: Dov FrimerMusic:
Chanukah Liturgy Sofrim 20:8

וְעַל הַנִסִּים, וְעַל הַפֻּרְקָן,
וְעַל הַגְבוּרוֹת, וְעַל הַתְּשׁוּעוֹת,
וְעַל הַנִפְלָאוֹת, שֶׁעָשִׂיתָ לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ
בַּיָמִים הָהֵם בִּזְמן הַזֶה.Al hanisim v’al hapurkan
V’al hag’vurot v’al hatshu’ot
V’al hamilchamot sheasita l’avoteinu
Bayamim hahem bazman hazeh

We give thanks for the miracles,

for the times You saved us, for the
mighty acts, for the victories, and for
the battles You waged for our ancestors in these days at this time.

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