On the morning of December 1, 1988, a multi-denominational group of approximately 70 women arrived at the Kotel (Western Wall) with a Torah scroll to conduct a halakhic (legal according to Jewish law) women’s prayer service. As no provisions for Torah reading existed in the women’s section of the Kotel, we brought a sefer Torah (Torah scroll), stood together, and prayed out loud; a number of us wore prayer shawls. Suddenly many women, and men on the other side of the mechitzah (partition separating men and women), began to scream, curse and even threaten us. Despite these events, we managed to complete our Torah reading. When Kotel Administrator, Rabbi Yehuda Getz, allowed us to continue our service stating that we were “not violating Halakhah (Jewish Law).”
Since that day, we struggle to relive our service, to once again pray together while wearing tallit and reading from a Torah scroll at the Kotel. For nearly thirty-five years, we have endured violence and spent many years in court fighting for this basic right as Jewish women, while mobilizing support from the Israeli and international community fostering alliances.
A Legal History of Women of the Wall
- First International Jewish Feminist Conference held in Jerusalem. 70 Jewish women gather for a prayer service and Torah reading at the Kotel. Service is disrupted by verbal and physical assaults from some ultra-Orthodox men and women at the site.
- A group of women hold regular prayer services at the Kotel. Violent attacks from ultra-Orthodox opponents continue. Police refuse to provide protection.
- In March, after prayers at the Wall end with police using tear gas to contain harassers, four women submit a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court, asking for an order to allow women’s prayers and Torah reading to continue.
- In May, Israel’s Supreme Court hears the case of WOW for the first time. The state is given six months to respond to the petition. The Court issues a temporary injunction barring women from praying at the Kotel with a Torah and tallit..
- Women now pray at the Kotel without a Torah or tallit. Ultra-Orthodox opponents now demand that we not pray aloud because “kol b’isha erva” (the voice of woman is lewd).
- Following further violence and harassment by female security personnel, WOW demands a speedier response from the state and protection of the right to pray out loud. Both requests are denied.
- Newly-formed International Committee for Women of the Wall (ICWOW) donates a Torah scroll to WOW and travels to Israel for a dedication ceremony. The ceremony is not held at the Laromme Hotel as planned because the Jerusalem Rabbinate threatens to revoke the hotel’s kashrut license if the ceremony is held on their premises.
- On Dec 31, a new regulation is promulgated by the Ministry of Religion and the Ministry of Justice to “prohibit any religious ceremony at a holy place that is not in accordance with the custom of the holy site and which offends the sensitivities of the worshipers at the place.” The penalty for violating this regulation is 6 months in jail and/or a fine. This regulation is still in effect.
- The state files a response, 150-page collection of extreme halakhic opinions concerning women’s rights to pray out loud as a group, wear tallit, and touch or read from the Torah scroll.
- ICWOW files an independent lawsuit with the Israeli Supreme Court, stating that the cause is of critical importance for Jewish women everywhere.
- Women’s Network (Shdulat Hanashim B’yisrael) submits a motion to the Court asking to be allowed as a co-petitioner to the lawsuit. The court refuses.
- The Supreme Court hears oral argument on ICWOW’s case. Solidarity services are planned in Stockholm, Sweden and in cities across North America.
- In January, the Supreme Court at last issues a decision against ICWOW and WOW, but the presiding judge, Justice Shamgar, recommends that the government set up a commission to resolve the matter.
- In February, ICWOW and WOW request permission to appeal the court’s decision. The request is denied. The court states that “the doors of the court are open,” if the commission does not provide a proper remedy.
- A government commission, henceforth referred to as the Mancal (Directors-General) Commission, is appointed to propose a solution to the issue of women’s prayer at the Wall. No women are appointed to the commission. ICWOW undertakes a massive campaign to recruit individuals and organizations to lobby the commission.
- The Commission fails to meet its first deadline in November. The government grants a six-month extension.
- ICWOW and WOW are finally granted permission to testify before the Commission. Six Israeli women and one US representative testify in February.
- The Mancal Commission fails to meet its May 17 deadline. WOW and ICWOW file suit, demanding that: (1) the Commission be ordered to fulfill its mandate immediately; (2) the court issue an injunction against the government, prohibiting any further deadline extensions for the commission; (3) a temporary injunction be issued, allowing women to pray aloud at the Kotel with a Torah scroll and wearing tallit; and (4) the state provide police protection for WOW. Judge Dalia Domer rejects the request for an injunction preventing the commission from being granted further extensions. A hearing on the rest of the lawsuit is set for April. 14, 1996.
- The commission is granted another 6-month extension, until November. 17, 1995.
- The November. 17 deadline passes with no report issued.
- On April. 2, the Mancal Commission issues its report which looks at four alternative sites and proposes that the WOW services be moved to the southeastern comer of the Old City wall (outside the Old City itself).
- WOW and ICWOW return to court for a hearing of the May 1995 petition. The petition is strongly supported by affidavits from the Progressive (Reform) and Masorti (Conservative) movements in Israel, stating that they do not want their own demands concerning the Kotel to be used as a further delaying tactic by the government. The government requests and is granted a 1-month delay.
- On April. 21, the government appoints a new ministerial commission to decide if and how to implement the Mancal Commission’s report. ICWOW immediately initiates a letter-writing campaign to the new commission.
- In May, WOW/ICWOW’s delayed April hearing (for the suit filed in May 1995) comes before the court once again. The government is granted a delay until July 29, 1996.
- In June, Israeli elections give newly-expanded influence to ultra-Orthodox parties.
- In October., the Israeli Supreme Court orders the Ministry of Religion to pay WOW and ICWOW 5000 shekels toward legal costs for their “interminable delays” and for the disrespectful “recommendation” that WOW pray at the southeastern comer of the Old City.
- Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, Chancellor of Bar-Ilan University, issues statement of unequivocal public support for WOW.
- On March. 4, the Israeli Supreme Court orders the state to “show just cause within 90 days why Women Of the Wall’s lawsuit against the government should not succeed.” One day later, a bill sponsored by the SHAS party passes a preliminary vote in the Knesset. The bill would turn the Kotel from a national site into an ultra-Orthodox synagogue.
- The Ministerial Commission issues its report in June, recommending maintenance of the status quo, under which women’s group prayer at the Kotel is illegal. One week later, the state files its response with the Supreme Court and attached the decision of the commission.
- Shortly before the date of Women Of the Wall’s court hearing, Nili Arad, the lawyer representing the government, makes several proposals, including establishing another Ne’eman commission, and/or allotting WOW a place to pray at Robinson’s Arch, adjacent to the Kotel. WOW and ICWOW agree unanimously to reject these proposals, but at the hearing, pushed by the judges, it was concluded that there is no alternative but to participate in a commission. WOW agrees to present minimal terms for participating in the Commission within two weeks. Ultimately, these terms are not met.
- First meeting of Ne’eman Commission in March. Several key members are absent.
- Second meeting of Ne’eman Commission in May. A representative of the Ministry of Religion reviews the status of alternate sites that had been previously rejected by WOW, the Antiquities Authority, or police, and maintains that the only remaining option is the area by the security gates separating the Kotel plaza from Dung Gate. Ne’eman suggests that the feasibility of this site, including the construction of some structure to protect women there, be investigated by all parties.
- Tour of Kotel area by members of the Ne’eman Commission occurs in June.
- The Neeman Commission issues its report in September concluding that WOW should pray in the Robinson’s Arch area immediately south of the Kotel, currently an archeological site. WOW had no vote nor was any serious attention given to our compromise proposal of a time-sharing arrangement.
- On February. 16, the State submits an affidavit by Jerusalem Chief of Police Yair Yitzhaki arguing that it is WOW who provokes violence. The next day the Supreme Court holds a two-hour hearing on the petition of WOW and ICWOW to pray as a group at the Western Wall, with Torah and tallit.
- Court judges Eliahu Matza, Tova Strassburg-Cohen, and Dorit Beinish, in the company of WOW and ICWOW representatives, our lawyers, representatives of the government legal advisor, the police, the Antiquities Authority, and councils responsible for development of the holy sites tour the Kotel plaza and proposed alternative sites
- In a lengthy opinion these judges recognize our rights, but transfer the matter to the government yet again, charging it to find a solution at the Kotel within six months. They award WOW 20,000 shekels for legal costs. The Shas and Degel Ha’Torah religious parties introduce in the Knesset repressive bills aimed at overriding the Court’s ruling. One of these bills would make women’s worship at the Western Wall with Torah and tallit an offense punishable by seven years imprisonment.
- The State files a request for anaAppeal on the decision.
- On December 3, proposed bill no. 1924 was voted on in the Knesset. This is an amendment to the Holy Sites Law of 1967 and reads as follows: “1. The prayer area at the Western plaza shall be divided into a men’s section and women’s section by a divider, and prayers by men and women in a mixed group shall not be permitted there. 2. No religious ceremony shall be held in the women’s section near the Western Wall that includes taking out a Torah scroll and reading from it, blowing the shofar, or wearing tallitot or tefillin. 3. Violators shall be imprisoned for seven years.” WOW and ICWOW orchestrated a letter-writing campaign to the prime minister, the justice minister, and the speaker of the Knesset.
- On June 4, the Court issued a ruling, and the legal battle regarding the Women Of the Wall came to a close. The majority ruled that, despite the state’s claims to the contrary, the Women Of the Wall maintained a legal right to pray at the Western Wall. Nevertheless such right was not without boundaries, the Court ruled that prayer at Robinson’s Arch would allow the Women Of the Wall to pray according to their practice “next to the Western Wall.”
To read the summary of the verdict, please click here.
- On Rosh Hodesh Kislev, November. 18, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation demanded that the police stop WOW’s prayer services, and in response, the police arrested group member Nofrat Frenkel, a young Israeli medical student. Frenkel was held for several hours, interrogated, and charged with illegally wearing a tallit at the Western Wall.
- WOW chairperson Anat Hoffman was interrogated on January 5th 2010. She was finger-printed and warned that she would be charged with a felony offense for wearing a tallit at the Western Wall.
- Noa Raz, a member of WOW, was physically assaulted on May 12th by an ultra-Orthodox man at the Central Bus Station in Be’er Sheva for having the imprints of tefillin lines visible on her arms.
- WOW Chairperson Anat Hoffmanwas arrested in July for carrying a Torah during Rosh Hodesh Av. Moments after leaving the Wall, police confronted and blocked the procession and began to remove the Torah from Hoffman’s arms. Hoffman was detained under the pretext that she was not praying according to the traditional customs of the Kotel. Hoffman was taken into police custody and interrogated for five hours. Hoffman was released from police custody and banned from the Kotel for 30 days.
- Synagogues, organizations, and individuals begin holding solidarity events, such as Rosh Hodesh services, the Torah campaign, and lectures outside of Israel
- The Legal and Education Fund is created to help promote our message to the international community.
- Three members of the Women Of the Wall organization were briefly detained during Rosh Hodesh Sivan for wearing tallitat the Western Wall.
- A WOW supporter was detained for over three hours for wearing a tallit at the Western Wall during Rosh Hodesh Tamuz services.
To learn more about the restrictions, click here.
- Rosh Hodesh Tamuz prayer service was held on June 21, 2012.
- Police asked Women of the Wall supporter to wear her tallit as a scarf instead of as a prayer shawl, and she complied.
- She was later detained by police officers and held at the Police Headquarters in the Old City for hours.
- She was informed that she would not be allowed at the Western Wall for seven days and would be fined NIS 3,000 if she did not comply.
- Rosh Hodesh Elul prayer service was held on August 19, 2012.
- Police arrested and detained four Women of the Wall supporters because they were accused of disturbing the public peace according to regulation 201 A4 of the Israeli legal code, the punishment for which is six months in prison, and of violating regulation 287A by performing a religious act which “offends the feelings of others.”
- Four supporters were arrested for wearing traditional tallit, those with black or blue stripes which are traditionally worn only by men.
- On the eve of the new Jewish month of Heshvan, Anat Hoffman was arrested while leading prayer at Hadassah’s centennial convention.
- She was held in custody and subjected to violent and aggressive treatment for over twelve hours and was forced to wear handcuffs for most of this time.
- She was released and issued a restraining order from the Western Wall for 30 days.
- Rosh Hodesh Heshvan prayer service was held on October 17, 2012.
- Lesley Sachs, Director of Women of the Wall, and Rachel Cohen Yeshrun, board member, were arrested.
- They were released but asked to admit to the crime of disturbing public peace. They refused.
- Rosh Hodesh Kislev prayer service was held on November 15, 2012. Nearly 100 women gathered for support and to dedicate their prayers to peace in southern Israel.
- Women of the Wall Director Lesley Sachs and board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun were detained by police for wearing tallitt. Later, four more supporters were detained.
- They were asked to accept a five- day restraining order from the Kotel.
- Rosh Hodesh Tevet prayer service was held on December 14, 2012.
- According to police, a new decree was issued forbidding women to enter the Western Wall plaza with Jewish ritual items, tallit, or tefillin. Thus, women were stripped of these articles before entering.
- The first woman detained, Women of the Wall board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, refused to remove her tallit as she entered the Western Wall Plaza. She was removed and interrogated.
- Two young women from the UK gap-year program Shnat-Netzer and Rabbi Elyse Frishman from New Jersey, USA were held and interrogated.
- All four women refused to sign an admission of disturbing the public peace and were released after three hours.
- Prime Minister Netanyahu recognized the need for a quick and fair resolution to the conflict at the Kotel.
- He asked Jewish Agency Chairman, Natan Sharansky to examine the issue.
- Women of the Wall and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), along with Kolech- Religious Women’s Forum, the Center For Women’s Justice, the Yaacov Herzog Center, Hiddush and the Masorti Movement petitioned the Supreme Court
- The petition was presented to the court by IRAC on January 6, 2013 It questioned the legality and legitimacy of the authorities presiding over the Western Wall.
- It asked the court to examine the unequal representation of Jewish streams and of women in the bodies and offices which hold authority over the Western Wall site.
- The court was also requested to examine the double-duty of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, who holds two titles: Rabbi in charge of Holy Sites, appointed by the Prime Minister’s Office, and Chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.
- Women of the Wall Chair Anat Hoffman sent a letter on February 6, 2013 to Chief of the Israel Police Yohanan Danino requesting that he direct the Jerusalem Police Commander to prevent the male officers at the Western Wall from physically restraining women at the Western Wall.
- Hundreds of supporters flocked to the Western Wall to pray with Women of the Wall, including several Israeli paratroopers who liberated Jerusalem and the Western Wall in 1967 at the end of the Six Day War.
- After a peaceful prayer service police detained ten women for wearing tallitot. They were held for over three hours of questioning.
- The detained group included Rabbi Susan Silverman, sister of American comedian Sarah Silverman, and her underage daughter Hallel.
- Women of the Wall Chair Anat Hoffman, Director Lesley Sachs, board member Bonnie Ras, Reform rabbinical student Lior Nevo, Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin and Rabbi Debra Cantor were also detained.
- On February 25, 2013, over one hundred Women of the Wall gathered to read the megillah for Purim. Unlike the prayer services of the previous six months, which had been plagued by mid-prayer arrests, this megillah reading went peacefully and joyfully.
- Women of the Wall prayed at the Kotel with tallit and tefillin without arrests or police intervention for the first time since 2010.
- Members of Knesset Tamar Zandberg from the Meretz Party and Stav Shafir from the Labor Party arrived at the security gate to the Western Wall with tallit. When they were refused entrance with the tallit, they insisted on entering but were not arrested because they are members of the Knesset.
- undreds organized international solidarity rallies.
- The most notable was New York’s Wake Up for Religious Tolerance at Union Square, NY of over 400 people.
- Solidarity events were also held in Washington DC, Southern California, San Francisco, Massachusetts, and on college campuses across the US.
- Women of the Wall received a letter from Israeli Police which summarizes the most recent interpretation of the 2003 Supreme Court ruling by the Attorney General. This ruling forbids women to pray the Kaddish prayer, including the mourner’s prayer.
- In his letter, Jerusalem Chief of Police Prienti asserts and threatens that as of Rosh Hodesh Iyar when Women of the Wall will gather for their monthly prayer at 7AM on April 11, 2013 at the Western Wall, the police will enforce the full extent of the law against women violating this ruling.
- Despite this threat, Anat Hoffman states that Women of the Wall “will be at the Kotel and will say Kaddish with the utmost religious intention and emotional commitment that is deserved and require of us.”
- Women of the Wall requests all Jews around the world to stand in solidarity, to say Kaddish, and to demand full religious freedom for women at the Western Wall.
- On April 11, 2013, 5 women – Lesley Sachs, Bonnie Riva Ras, Sylvie Rozenbaum, Rabbi Valerie Stessin, and Sharona Kramer were detained during Rosh Hodesh prayers with Women of the Wall. The women were held for questioning and arrested. After seeing all evidence, Judge Sharon Larry Bavly stated that there was no cause for arresting the women. In a groundbreaking decision, the judge declared that Women of the Wall are not disturbing the public order with their prayers.
- After the police appealed the Magistrates’ Court decision, the case was heard in District Court on April 25, 2013. Judge Moshe Sobel decided against the police appeal, supporting fully the Magistrates Court decision by Judge Sharon Lary-Bavly, which stated that there was no cause for arrest and that the women did not disturb the public order. The Judge declared that the Supreme Court decision of 2003 never intended to serve as an injunction which would apply criminal violations to women. Likewise this decision did not ban Women of the Wall from praying at the Kotel.. In reference to the Supreme Court recommendation that the women pray in Robinson’s Arch, Sobell declared that this does not prohibit the women from praying at the Western Wall in the women’s section, and certainly it does not imply a criminal violation for this act. Regarding the restriction within the Law of Holy Places in which visitors at the Western Wall are to pray and hold religious celebrations according to the “local custom,”,the judge declared that the women are not violating this law. He stated that the legal proceedings of Women of the Wall establish that the “local custom” is to be interpreted with National and pluralistic implications, not necessarily Orthodox Jewish customs.
- On May 10, 2013 hundreds of women prayed at the Kotel freely, many with tallitot and tefillin, with the protection of police, while thousands of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men and women protested.
- On June 9, 2013 three hundred women prayed under strict protection of the police, with a few hundred Haredi protesters. The women are still refused access to pray with a Torah
- More than 350 Women of the Wall were led by police escort to a fenced in area of the Western Wall (Kotel) Plaza while the Western Wall stood nearly empty at 7 AM on July 8, 2013. The women were held to pray in a space next to the public bathroom, usually used by Police as a parking area, and were not provided a separate section for women to pray away from the 100 male supporters, effectively forcing the women into mixed prayer. The women were refused entrance to the main plaza and instead, 100 ultra-Orthodox protesters with signs and whistles were allowed to throw eggs and yell at women the public, holy site.
- Women of the Wall pray surrounded by police, onlookers and protesters. The women’s prayer group and male supporters, 300 in all, were corralled into a small pen in the Western Wall Plaza, 150 meters from the Kotel. This, despite requests of Women of the Wall and MK Aliza Lavie, Chair of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women (Lavie in a letter to Minister of Internal Security Aharonowitz), to allow women to pray freely, according to their tradition at the holy site.
- This month and the month previous, the men’s prayer section was surrounded by loudspeakers facing the Western Wall Plaza. In August 2013 Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz led prayers and addressed worshipers over this loudspeaker while the women attempted to pray together. The sound system is for public use, and yet never in 25 years has it been used on Rosh Hodesh until last month. Rabinowitz chose to use his status to take a biased and discriminatory stance: to drown out women’s prayer in favor of his own.
- Women of the Wall leaders stood vigil with their Torah scroll, outside of the Kotel plaza, as the enforcement of the ordinance prohibiting entrance with private Torah scrolls lends to the exclusion of women’s prayer in the public sphere.
- Nearly 200 Women of the Wall prayed in the women’s section of the Kotel- out loud and as a group, with tallitot (prayer shawls) and tefillin (phylacteries). The multi-denominational prayer group prayed without police enclosures and restrictions for the first time since April 2013. This great achievement was tainted by the incited, abusive behavior of some of the women and girls who came to pray at the Kotel this morning. Of thousands who came to pray for the health of Rabbi Ovadia Yoseph, there was a large group of women and girls who surrounded Women of the Wall, cursing, spitting and yelling throughout the prayer. A mass prayer was led by Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yoseph, over loudspeakers, drowning out women’s prayers.
- Despite the provocations of the girls and the loudspeakers, out of great respect, Women of the Wall stopped their prayer to listen and join Rabbi Yoseph’s prayer for his father. The women added “Amen” and continued the prayer only when his was finished.
- It was a trying and emotional morning for the women, many of whom left the Kotel in tears, saddened but also resolved to continue to pray at the holy site.
- Women of the Wall submit a list of conditions for the creation of an equal, fully integrated third section of the Western Wall to Avichai Mandelblit, Israel’s Cabinet Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office. A precondition to this document is that Women of the Wall will continue to pray in the women’s section until a third section is created and completed to the satisfaction of the multi-denominational women’s prayer group.Read more on the conditions.
- Women of the Wall gather with nearly 1000 participants, including students and supporters from all over Israel and including 150 supporters who flew in from abroad for the 25th anniversary of WOW’s prayers at the Kotel. The women’s prayer group took up more than half of the women’s section and supporters extended into the upper plaza of the Western Wall. The prayer was peaceful for the most part, with very minimal protest from the Ultra-Orthodox, despite the major efforts to bring protesters. Police protected the women from minor disturbances, yelling, whistles and cursing.
- Hundreds joined WOW for a day seminar and a gala evening to celebrate 25 years of sisterhood, empowerment and prayer.
- Vandalism, graffiti, found at the home of WOW Board member Peggy Cidor, for the second time this year. Women of the Wall condemns this act of violence, vandalism and threat. The threats and hate speech found by police on Cidor’s walls this morning read: “Peggy Watch Out” and “Women of the Wall are Villains.”.2014
- The Torah is banned from entering the Kotel based on regulations passed by Rabbi Rabinowitz.
- Girls celebrate Bat Mitzvah with Women of the Wall on Rosh Hodesh regularly, despite the lack of access to a Torah scroll.
- Monthly Rosh Hodesh attendance stands between 150-200.
- On Sunday, October 12, 2014 Women of the Wall launched an ad campaign on Jerusalem public buses promoting Bat Mitzvah ceremonies for girls at the Western Wall . The first-ever of their kind, the campaign ads feature Israeli girls, ages eleven to fourteen, wearing a tallit, traditional Jewish prayer shawl and holding a Torah scroll in front of the Western Wall. The buses will travel throughout Jerusalem, encouraging girls and their families to celebrate Bat Mitzvah ceremonies with Women of the Wall at the Western Wall. The ads read in Hebrew: “Mom, I too want a Bat Mitzvah at the Kotel” and “V’zot Hatorah (Translates to “Here is the Torah”, also a pun in Hebrew as the phrase is in feminine form): Now it is my turn.”
- WOW hold first Bat Mitzvah at the Kotel with a Torah on October 24, 2014. A tiny 200 year-old Torah was brought into the Western Wall under the radar of the authorities. This 28 centimeter, 200 year-old Torah belongs to John and Noeleen Cohen of London and is certified Kosher by an Orthodox Sofer Stam. Mr. Cohen’s great-grandfather carried this Torah with him from Lithuania to South Africa in 1880, and he loaned the family heirloom to Women of the Wall. 12- year old Sasha Lutt of Beer Sheva read from the Torah for her Bat Mitzvah ceremony, completing the first ever full Bat Mitzvah at the Western Wall. Irina Lutt, the proud mother who moved to Israel from Russian when Sasha was just a baby, looked on proudly during the ceremony.
- For the second month in a row the women, while banned from openly entering the Western Wall with a Torah scroll and refused requests to use one of the hundreds of Torah scrolls at the Wall held for “public use” were forced to smuggle a tiny, historic Torah into the holy, public site. The second girl to celebrate a Bat Mitzvah at the Kotel with a Torah is Ruth Antman, a Jerusalem native, and daughter of Avigail Antman, an Orthodox feminist and a poet who herself grew up in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Antman is a member of the Women of the Wall executive board.
- Women of the Wall were joined by over 100 women for Chanukah candle lighting at the Kotel, despite the opposition of Rabbi Rabinowitz. The 120 women lit 28 Chanukah menorahs and were joined by Members of Knesset Tamar Zandberg and Michal Rozin from the Meretz party and Rabbi Susan Silverman with her sisters, actress Laura Silverman and comedian Sarah Silverman. The first-ever women’s candle lighting was held precisely as the “official” candle lighting ceremony of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation ended in the men’s section. In the state-sponsored ceremony only men were honored and only men spoke and sang- excluding women completely. Women who wished to see the candle lighting were forced to stand on plastic chairs and peer over the partition.
- Women of the Wall pray in the snow at the Kotel. Fifty women walked to the Western Wall from all over Jerusalem and gathered for a women’s prayer service in the snow. The women sang and danced, celebrating the new month of Adar and the Bat Mitzvah of a Brazilian immigrant to Israel, Carla Knijnik, who joined the group from Raanana. Amidst the joyous, snowy prayer, a few ultra-Orthodox men threw snowballs at the women’s group from over the partition that separates men and women at the holy site.
- On May 7, 2015 male supporters of Women of the Wall passed a Torah to the women through the mehitzah, the partition that separations men and women. The Torah was one of hundreds held at the Kotel for “public” use which men can access freely while women’s requests are refused. WOW succeeded in reading Torah but unfortunately the men who handed the Torah to the women were physically assaulted and then detained for questioning.
- A woman was banned from entering the Kotel for wearing a Kippah and this spurred solidarity from around the world.
- On July 17, 2015 WOW board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun was detained with a Torah in the women’s section and the Torah was confiscated, to be returned later.
- Harassment from both police and ultra-Orthodox onlookers as women read Torah and blew shofar.
- 2 Bat Mitzvah ceremonies were held at the Kotel, from the US and Brazil, without a Torah Scroll
My Right to Light Hanukkah Campaign:
- 100 women lit candles in Women of the Wall’s alternative ceremony at the Kotel in the women’s section. WATCH THE VIDEO.
- Israel’s Attorney General backed Women of the Wall’s assertion of discrimination and exclusion of women at the Kotel on Hanukkah.
- 350 Letters were sent to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Hebrew and English from Israel, the US, Canada, the UK, Spain, France, South Africa, Holland, Switzerland, Australia, Brazil, Thailand, and Sweden.
- 100 #myrighttolight photos from all over the world were posted to our Facebook page. They were sent from Israel, the US, Canada, the UK and Kenya
- 83 donors supported the ‘It’s My Right to Light’ campaign initiated by Rabbi Jackie Ellenson and Rabbi Sydney Mintz and we raised $14,423 to continue our vital work.
- 25,000 people were reached by our #myrighttolight Tweets.
- 400,000+ people actively engaged in our advocacy work on Facebook.