March 12, 2013
This morning marked Rosh Hodesh Nissan and the first time in over 22 months, women were allowed to pray with tefillin (phylacteries) and tallitot (prayer shawls) without police intervention. The 220 women who prayed today at the wall met with opposition from both the men’s side and on the women’s side of the Kotel, in the form of loud, verbal attacks and disruptions.
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 tallitot for the prayer service. When they were refused entrance with the tallit, they insisted on entering. The MKs forced their way through security with the religious contraband. Zandberg and Shafir were not arrested because as members of Knesset, they have immunity. At the conclusion of the prayer, MK Zandberg, a secular woman, said, “This was my first time wearing a tallit and I was emotional, filled with energy and spirituality.” MK Rozin does not feel comfortable visiting the Kotel on her own, but was present to “ensure that the women’s rights to pray freely according to their beliefs were upheld.”
Just hours before the largest gathering of supporters of Women of the Wall will be held in New York City, days before the arrival of United States President Barack Obama and with the support and presence of members of Knesset, Women of the Wall were allowed to pray with tallit and tefillin in police presence and without consequent detainment. Unfortunately, throughout the prayer, the women were faced with a constant barrage of disparaging remarks, being hurled at them by ultra-Orthodox women whose intention was to interrupt the prayer. From the men’s side, ultra-Orthodox men gathered, raised their voices, chanted and unnecessarily blew the shofar, in attempt to drown out the women’s voices. Women of the Wall sang and danced in the joy of the moment of being free to practice Judaism according to their beliefs, with the large exception of the Torah.
Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall Chair: “Today we took one more step in our struggle to liberating the Kotel. Thanks to the members of Knesset, we prayed today with tallit and tefillin, an act which for the last 22 months has carried with it the threat of arrest. We must keep up the pressure to end the oppression of women at the Kotel, to see a day soon when we read Torah in peace at the Kotel.