Women of the Wall bus campaign.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Women of the Wall prayer rights group launched an advertising campaign on Jerusalem public buses on Monday, promoting Bat Mitzva ceremonies for girls at the Western Wall.
The campaign ads feature Israeli girls, ages eleven to fourteen, wearing prayer shawls and holding a Torah scroll in front of the Western Wall, and are aimed at encouraging girls and their families to celebrate bat mitzva ceremonies with Women of the Wall at the Western Wall.
The advertisements, which read in Hebrew “Mom, I too want a bat mitzva at the Kotel,” are part of a broader campaign for the group to be able to read from a Torah scroll at the site.
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.
WoW has waged a long battle for its group to be able to pray at the Western Wall in accordance with its own customs, including for women to pray with prayer shawls and tefillin if they so wish.
While a ruling in April this year by the Jerusalem District Court removed any legal basis that may have existed to arrest women who prayed in a non-Orthodox manner in the women’s section of the Western Wall plaza, WoW is still prevented from reading from a Torah scroll at the site.
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, supervisor of the Western Wall and Israel’s Holy Sites and chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation which administers the site, does not allow the group to use the Torah scrolls made available to men, while current regulations prohibit bringing in private scrolls to the site.
“The Torah is central in Judaism and binds all Jews, across denominations, religiously, spiritually, culturally and historically,” WoW said in a statement to the press. “To deny any Jew access to a Torah scroll, as has been done so many times before throughout Jewish history, is an affront to religious freedom. To refuse women access to Torah has no basis in halacha (Jewish law) and has no place in a public site in a democratic state.”
Various officials in WoW have said that they intend to bring a Torah scroll to their next prayer service at the Western Wall, scheduled for October 24, the new Jewish month.
In launching the advertising campaign, Lesley Sachs, Director of Women of the Wall, said that Jewish girls have the right to hold their bat mitzva ceremonies at the Western Wall.
“This is one of the things we are fighting for and that is why we have launched this campaign - so that girls and mothers will call the number on the ad and find out more about how to join Women of the Wall. We will be able to tell them how to make this wonderful time in their lives into a meaningful, fulfilling bat mitzvah experience.”
Nachmiel Saban, a member of the Jerusalem Municipal Council for Shas described the campaign as “a provocation,” designed to grab attention.
“This campaign is designed to irritate people, but it’s best not to respond to it in order not to bring the attention they want,” Saban said.
“If the rabbinic leadership tells us to respond differently then this is what we shall do.”
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