women of the wall 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
More than 400 rabbis from around the world have signed a letter asking Jerusalem
police to protect women at the Western Wall who want to pray and read the Torah
together, one year after nursing student Nofrat Frenkel was arrested for taking
out a Torah in the women’s section of the Western Wall Plaza.
a member of the Women of the Wall organization, which advocates for women’s
rights to perform religious actions, such as wearing prayer shawls and reading
from the Torah, at the Western Wall.
The letter, organized by Los Angeles
Rabbi Pamela Frydman, asked the mayor and police chief of Jerusalem to
“immediately institute and enforce a zero-tolerance policy against attacking
women in any way whatsoever, including throwing chairs and feces-filled diapers
and other objects at women who pray together.”
The letter, co-authored by
28 rabbis, has also been signed by close to 500 other individuals and
organizations from various Jewish denominations across the world, bringing the
total to over 900 signatories. It was also sent to Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, along with other prominent
“It is extremely important to us that there always be a
place for haredi men and women in a way that is comfortable for them and in
accordance with their understanding of Halacha,” said Frydman, who is the
director of the Holocaust Education Project at the Academy for Jewish Religion
in Los Angeles, and was ordained through the Jewish Renewal
“But it is equally important for us that those of us who are
Modern Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal that we
have a place where we can pray in accordance with our
Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said that the
police would respond directly to the authors of the letter.
“The Women of
the Wall are welcome, like every Jewish woman, to come to the Western Wall,”
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, chief rabbi of the Western Wall, told The Jerusalem
. “It is forbidden for anyone to harm them, as violence is totally forbidden
at the Western Wall. Together with this… I call on them to behave according to
the customs of the area and not to insult the sensitivities of the other people
Another police source pointed out that the women were arrested
after engaging in activities that were forbidden by Supreme Court
“On the one hand, they’re breaking the law, and on the other
hand, they’re asking for expanded protection in order to break the law,” said
the police source.
On Monday, when the women mark the new Hebrew month of
Kislev, Nofrat Frenkel will lead services to mark the one-year anniversary of
her arrest. She was arrested after attempting to bring out the Torah in the main
women’s section, which is against the law.
“It was the global support we
received that put the wind in our sails,” said Frenkel in a statement. “After my
arrest, Jews in both Israel and the Diaspora understood that we have to win this
battle by foot.
Men and women, from all sects of Judaism, have arrived
monthly to pray with WOW at the Kotel and insist on their right for freedom of
The Women of the Wall has also started a campaign asking women
around the world to send photos of them reading and holding Torahs, in order to
illustrate that this is a worldwide movement. They have collected more than
“Israelis have given up on the Wall,” said Anat Hoffman,
chairwoman of Women of the Wall and the executive director of the Israel
Religious Action Center, who was also arrested at a Women of the Wall event six
months ago. “They feel uncomfortable there... People have made them feel as if
they’re not coming home, but trampling on someone else’s place. There are
territorial behaviors, saying, ‘Wear something different,’ ‘Move from here,’
‘Move from there.’” Frydman is currently leading a delegation to Israel of
around 20 people, both men and women, to support Women of the Wall and attend
Monday’s Rosh Hodesh service.
“There’s a saying, ‘Respect comes even
before Torah,’” Frydman said. “We believe it’s important to respect the haredi
way of worship, and our way of worship as well.”