The Kotel was very quiet on Wednesday morning. There were very few women in the women’s section when we arrived and the men’s section was unusually silent. One small but very spirited group of Yeshiva students came shortly after us. Their presence was comforting; it was a sense of normalcy in these tense times.
We really didn’t know how many people would come. Women of the Wall has held Rosh Hodesh services at the Kotel for nearly 27 years. We came during summer hamsin, during winter rains and snow, and during the two intifadas. An impressive group of 48 women and about a dozen male supporters came to the Kotel this Rosh Hodesh.
We knew that the service this month would be a difficult one. Our board made the very hard decision to forgo bringing in our Torah so that the police could deal with real security issues. We decided not to play Rav Rabinowtz’s (the administrator of the Kotel) cat and mouse game this month. We are allowed to read from a Sefer Torah at the Kotel according to Israeli law. But forbidden to bring a Torah into the plaza by a decree of the Kotel administrator. So every month, we have to try to sneak a Torah in. Once inside the plaza, the police will not take it from us and we can hold our service.
Anat Hoffman, the Women of the Wall board chair wrote to Rabinowitz, and told him that in acting responsibly and in not wanting to distract the police; we were not going to sneak a Torah in but would he allow us to use one of the hundreds of Torah’s available for public use at the Kotel. She explained that we had two b’not mitzvah girls who were coming from abroad and that they should be allowed to read Torah. Hoffman wrote: “I hope that you will receive this request in the spirit of understanding and reconciliation.” He never bothered to answer.
But the Western Wall Heritage Foundation goon squad still continued to harass us at the security post on our way into the plaza. They refused to let our prayer books in until a police officer told them that prayer books are allowed. Maybe that was Rabinowitz’s answer.
But the service was still spiritually beautiful. Here we were, in the Old City that has seen so much Jewish blood spilled recently, celebrating the ascent of Aliya Mayana Glatt – from California – and Leora Cytrynbaum – from Brazil –into adult Jewish life. Two very brave young women and their families came to affirm their Judaism and their love of Israel.
At one point, the yeshiva bochers broke into singing Am Yisrael Chai. We sang with them. A male heckler who usually screams that we are abominations and that God wants us dead, was silenced by one of the young men. He said, “No – not now – not in these times.” We are Am Yisrael Chai.
This is the time for Jewish unity and not for in-fighting. If Women of the Wall, a group of women who come from across the religious divide, are all ages from students to seniors, cross political lines from left wing to right, and live in different parts of Israel: Jerusalem, the center, the territories, the south (including supporters who come from the Aravah), and from northern communities, can pray together for almost 27 years; than all Jews can share our holiest site. The Kotel belongs to all of us. Jerusalem belongs to all of us. Together we are strong.