Tensions Rise as Supporters and Opposition Organize around Women of the Wall

March 10, 2013

The second week of March brings the Jewish month of Nissan and with it, events and prayer services all over the world in support of Women of the Wall. The Women will meet as they do each month on March 12, 2013 at 7:00AM on the women’s side of the Western Wall for a pluralist women’s prayer service celebrating Rosh Hodesh Nissan (the new Jewish month of Nissan). Despite the past few months’ quiet prayer services with no disruptions of the peace, the police have continuously detained women- seven or ten at a time- for the felony of wearing a Tallit (prayer shall). Against the police detentions and in support of Women of the Wall and the right to freedom of religion at the Western Wall, hundreds will be organizing solidarity rallies and prayer services all over the US, the most notable will be New York’s Wake Up for Religious Tolerance at Union Square, NY on March 12, 2013. Organizers expect hundreds to attend from over 40 participating organizations. Events will also be held in Washington, DC and San Francisco, CA next to the Israeli consulates, and in communities in Cleveland, OH, Chicago, IL, and Florida. Likewise, groups will gather in solidarity on university campuses at University of Pennsylvania and Brandeis University.

Unfortunately, this weekend the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem were plastered with pashkevillim, wall posters serving as advertisement of public issues, against Women of the Wall and calling for ultra-Orthodox opposition to come to the Kotel on Rosh Hodesh morning. Though there were no rabbis signed or taking responsibility for this call, as is customary on pashkevillim, it would seem that someone anonymous has an interest in opposing Women of the Wall’s prayer, despite the relative quiet of the last few months. Aside from police detainments (43 detainments of women in six months), the prayers at the Kotel have gone undisturbed lately, and the Purim celebrations proved that without violent opposition or police intervention, the Jews present are quite capable of tolerance and sharing the holy space.

In a letter to the Minister of Internal Security and Israeli chief of Police, Anat Hoffman issued a formal complaint of “incitement of violence against Women of the Wall”. Hoffman continues and explains how similar language has been used in the past to call the ultra-Orthodox community to action and this turned into violent protests and attacks on civilians. In her letter Hoffman calls to police to open an investigation and do their utmost to protect Women of the Wall from violence while they pray peacefully in a public, holy site.


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