Women of the Wall bus campaign.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites, said this week he was saddened by the recent advertising campaign on city buses launched by the Women of the Wall prayer rights group promoting bat mitzva ceremonies at the Western Wall.
Rabinowitz said the campaign, which includes ads bearing the pictures of various girls who wish to have a bat mitzvah ceremony at the Western Wall, “fanned the flames of dispute” and called it “irresponsible.”
“The issue of the Women of the Wall is complex, and is under discussion even now within the committee that the prime minister established and by the cabinet secretary,” said Rabinowitz.
“Great efforts are being made to resolve this complicated problem, and I have faith that a solution will indeed be found, but this needs to be done with caution and responsibility, which is how the prime minister, the chairman of the Jewish Agency, and many others have behaved,” he continued.
“I am saddened that there are people who want to fan the flames of argument, and to employ bullying media tactics, as the Women of the Wall have done to our regret in recent days, through an irresponsible campaign whose goal is to prevent an arrangement that is acceptable to all sides.”
The WoW campaign is designed to encourage girls to hold a bat mitzva ceremony at the Western Wall, with a Torah scroll if they so wish, although women are currently unable to read from the Torah at the site under current regulations.
Bus advertisements featuring women have frequently been vandalized by extremists in the Jerusalem’s haredi community, and such ads have only this month begun to reappear following a protracted legal campaign.
Women of the Wall rejected Rabinowitz’s criticism, saying his words regarding unity are not commensurate with the way he acts toward women and non-haredi Jews.
“In practice, the rabbi of the Western Wall misuses his authority, while harming the freedom of worship for women at the holiest site for Jews,” the group said in response to Rabinowitz’s comments.
WoW said that Rabinowitz refuses to lend them one of the more than 100 Torah scrolls available in the men’s section and prevents them from bringing in their own scroll as well, saying that this position violates an April 2013 court ruling that the group could pray in accordance with its own customs at the site.
“This is without doubt discrimination, which has no place at the Western Wall, as a public and state-run site that belongs to everyone,” WoW said in its statement to the media.
The organization is planning to bring a Torah scroll to the Western Wall for its monthly prayer service next Friday, although it is unclear whether security personnel will permit the group to bring it into the area.