On Rosh Hodesh Adar 2013, I was arrested for praying at the Kotel. The happiness of Adar was marred by this event. The arrests of women for praying while female continued and I was arrested again two months later
But our sadness that Adar turned to joy when Judge Sobel affirmed that women have the right to pray at the Kotel with Tallit, tefillin, out loud, and with a Sefer Torah.
The haredi reaction to this ruling was immediate and exceedingly violent. The planned protests – read riots – were orchestrated by extremist rabbis and their willing followers. They even bussed thousands of seminary girls in to fill up all available space in the women’s section forcing us to pray in the plaza where we were subject to verbal and physical abuse.
The ongoing riots and the need to create order at the Kotel was the starting point of the government negotiations led by Avichai Mandelblit, who was the cabinet secretary at the time, and the historic deal to create a third pluralistic section of the Kotel. The deal that was approved by the Knesset but never implemented due to the haredi parties threats to dissolve the coalition and protest – read riot – about any loss of control over the Kotel and the purse strings that go with it.
Fast forward four years, and on this Rosh Hodesh Adar, we will be facing a planned haredi protest – read riot – because the more we push for women’s rights, the harder to push back. The haredi parties really believe they have the upper hand now because they have stalled the implementation of the third section and they have introduced legislation in the Knesset giving the rabbinate complete control of everything from the dung gate to the Kotel, including the Southern Wall that was given to the liberal movements for egalitarian prayer in 2002.
The Liba Center, a relatively new right wing extremist organization dedicated to preserving the haredi stronghold on Jewish life is best known for their Kotel protests where they push their way into the Southern Wall and disrupt all the ongoing prayer services when they set up a mehitza and start their own ultra-Orthodox services.
Now the Liba Center has released a video that calls on supporters to fortify the groups’ presence – read an invitation to riot – against the “debasement” of the Kotel at the same time that Women of the Wall holds their monthly Rosh Hodesh Tefilla. They claim WoW and the liberal movements are responsible for dividing world Jewry but it is the haredim who are responsible for creating and nurturing this Jew against Jew hared.
So now, instead of singing “Mishe Nichnas Adar marbim b'simcha” on what is supposed to be the happiest Rosh Hodesh of the year in the month that celebrates a Jewish woman’s heroism, we are facing an unholy group of haredi men and women who believe that any action is justified if it means stopping WoW and other liberal Jews from gaining any foothold of recognition in Israel. This Rosh Hodesh will be very sad