Statement of Support from UPJ Australia and ARZA!

25 October 2012
5 Cheshvan 5773

The Honorable Benyamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister of the State of Israel
3 Kaplan Street
Jerusalem, 91950

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,

We write on behalf of the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) in Australasia and the
Australian Reform Zionist Association (ARZA) to express our shock at the recent
events at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, including the brutal arrest of Anat Hoffman
and the detention and questioning of other members of the ‘Women of the Wall’
group, and we call on your Government to take immediate action to ensure that the
Kotel is accessible to all Jews.

The Western Wall is an extremely important religious site for all Jews. The Wall is
a vital link with our heritage and history and also has great significance for all of
us as a symbol of the unification of the nation following the Six Day War. Since
that time, the prevailing standards of separation and modesty at the Western Wall
have become increasingly stringent. The result is the transformation of the area,
which should serve the entire Jewish people, into an Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox

Attempts by the members of the ‘Women of the Wall’ – a group that includes
Orthodox, Conservative and Reform women – to pray by the Western Wall while
wearing Tallitot have been subject to continual harassment and attack. A Supreme
Court ruling in 2003 established that the ‘Women of the Wall’ have the right to
pray at the site, but that they must do so at the Robinson’s Arch site. Since then,
members of the group have gathered each Rosh Chodesh by the Western Wall for
a brief service, after which they move on to the Robinson’s Arch site for the Torah

It should be noted that Robinson’s Arch is managed as an archeological site, and an
entrance fee is required. Those wishing to pray at the site must coordinate their visit
in advance, and may come only in the early morning hours. Accordingly, the site as
currently operated does not constitute an egalitarian option for those wishing to hold
a mixed service or a women’s service.

In recent years, the police force has filmed and increasingly harassed the group. On
more than one occasion, the harassment has ended in arrests, as was the case this
week at the service held by the ‘Women of the Wall’ to mark the new month of
Cheshvan. In the democratic State of Israel it is unacceptable that a woman is
detained, fined and banned from the Kotel merely because she wishes to put on a
Tallit and recite the Shema at the most sacred site of the Jewish people.

Incorporated in Victoria Reg. No. A0042291F, ABN No. 96 213 500 277
E-mail: Website:
7 Ocean Street, Woollahra, NSW, 2025
Tel: (612) 9328 7644 Fax: (612) 9327 8715

Affiliated to

The Government of Israel has a duty to ensure that the right of all those visiting the
Western Wall to pray in accordance with their faith is upheld. From the moment of
Israel’s establishment, all citizens were guaranteed freedom of religion and worship.
This freedom is a basic right in Israeli law, and today derives from the constitutional
right to human dignity and liberty.

The transformation of the Western Wall into a place that permits solely Orthodox
or ultra-Orthodox prayer results in discrimination against all those who express
their Judaism in a different manner. Denying Jews from Israel and the Diaspora the
possibility to pray and hold lifecycle ceremonies at the Western Wall in accordance
with their belief completely contradicts the State’s obligation to ensure freedom of

The Declaration of Independence announces that the State of Israel “will be based
on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel;
will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction
of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education
and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy
Places of all religions…” It is unthinkable that Jews in the State of Israel will not
enjoy appropriate, dignified and egalitarian access to the holiest place of the Jewish

We have been heartened by the recent actions of your Government, including
the payment of a number of non-Orthodox Rabbis, as we believed this to be an
important move toward the recognition that there are many ways to be Jewish and
that Israel is the homeland of all Jews, and not just those who subscribe to one set
of beliefs.

We feel that after this recent event your Government should act to ensure that the
Western Wall respects the rights of all Jews to pray in freedom and without the fear
of harassment and imprisonment by the officers of the State.

Yours sincerely

David Robinson

Barbara Ford

Shoshana Kaminsky
Council of Progressive Rabbis

Steve Denenberg
Executive Director

Leave a Comment

Skip to content