An open letter to Rabbi Rabinowitz, administrator of the Western Wall

Brother, it has been 27 years since Women of the Wall began to pray at the Kotel with a Torah. Let’s get used to each other.

July 22, 2015 22:30
3 minute read.
Women of the Wall carry a Torah scroll into the women's section of the Western Wall plaza

Women of the Wall carry a Torah scroll into the women's section of the Western Wall plaza. (photo credit: WOMEN OF THE WALL)


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Dear Rabbi Rabinowitz,

Your open letter to Women of the Wall, which was published in The Jerusalem Post last week, represents your first ever initiative to communicate with Women of the Wall since your appointment as administrator of the Western Wall and Holy Sites in 1995. It is surprising that after 20 years of hostility, you are opening a dialogue.

It takes a little getting used to but is a step in the right direction.

In your letter, you ask us to “give in.”

You ask us to end our struggle so that you can be free to do the real work of “bringing more and more visitors and worshipers to the Western Wall.” I say that only if we do not give in and only if we continue our struggle will you be able to succeed in achieving your goal.

In order to understand you better, I have read your book, Hilkhot Hakotel, cover to cover. In your letter you say that you are a moderator, bridging the gap between extremes, but your book was written by someone whose world view is very extreme. How else do you explain the fact that in 530 pages you devote only seven lines to the subject of women? Unfortunately, you spent this precious space deliberating on how women should not gaze at the Torah during their menstrual cycle.

Your book shows hundreds of photographs of the Western Wall throughout history, and there is not one photo of a woman. There is no photo of a woman holding a baby, a mother rejoicing at her son’s bar mitzva, a female soldier, or of a girl wrapped in a tallit for the first time at her bat mitzva. It requires special acrobatics to take so many photographs at the Wall and not have a single woman pictured. Can you imagine, brother, how it feels to read a book about the family and see that all of the sisters and mothers and grandmothers have been excluded?

Every Hanukka a large, official hanukkia is erected at the Kotel in the men’s section, and only men are invited to have the honor of lighting it. Women of the Wall is determined to have a hanukkia at the women’s section next Hanukka so that the light reaches everyone.

A few times a year, IDF swearing-in ceremonies are held at the Western Wall. Thousands of soldiers and their parents attend. The policy at the Wall is that women are banned from being seen on stage or heard over a sound system. A female IDF officer who was good enough to lead and train her soldiers throughout basic training is prevented from swearing them in at the Kotel. It was publicized recently that you reached an agreement with the IDF that this policy will not change. Can you imagine, brother, how it feels for women like us, who were commanders in the army and still serve in the reserves, to see that we are segregated and silenced?

You have said often that you see yourself as the host of all who come to pray at the Wall, responsible for making everyone feel at home. How then do you explain that as administrator you will not provide a Torah scroll for girls’ bat mitzva ceremonies, while you run a lucrative business providing Torah scrolls for boys’ bar mitzvas? Only a few days ago a woman who brought a Torah scroll to the Wall for such a bat mitzva was taken away in handcuffs and the Torah confiscated at your order.

We do not want to sneak in a Torah. I am asking you here to provide a Torah for next Rosh Hodesh, for the girl who is practicing the Torah portion right now for her bat mitzva. You have a hundred Torah scrolls at the Kotel. You can spare one.

Brother, it has been 27 years since Women of the Wall began to pray at the Kotel with a Torah. Let’s get used to each other. Let’s start with the next bat mitzva at the Wall, with a Torah and your blessing.

The author is the chairwoman of Women of the Wall.

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