'Torah Tag' graffiti attack targets WoW member

Peggy Cidor tells 'Post' she blames haredi leadership for provoking attacks after vandals spray paint abuse on her home.

WoW graffiti 370 (photo credit: Courtesy )
WoW graffiti 370
(photo credit: Courtesy )
A prominent member of the Women of the Wall activist group was the victim of a vandalism attack early Monday morning in protest of her activities for the pluralistic prayer rights group.
Vandals spray-painted various threats and insults on the apartment front door and building stairwell of Peggy Cidor, a board member of the group for 15 years as well as a long-time reporter for The Jerusalem Post.
The graffiti included the term “Torah Tag,” imitating a vandalism campaign of far-right settler activists who have frequently perpetrated graffiti attacks under the banner of “Price Tag.” Such settler attacks are designed as retribution for either perceived anti-settlement activity by government authorities, or Palestinian attacks.
The graffiti messages read: “You are wicked. Peggy, your time is over. Jerusalem is holy and the Kotel is holy. Women of the Wall are disgusting villains. Peggy, you are the first.”
Speaking to the Post on Monday, Cidor said that she believed the vandalism was carried out by impressionable ultra-Orthodox youth.
“I have no proof, but my first suspicion would be that it was youngsters or teenagers from yeshiva,” she said. “Who else has any interest in doing such a thing to me unless they’re in ultra-Orthodox circles? That’s my simple deduction.”
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed that the vandalism was a targeted attack and that police have launched a formal investigation.
“A member of Women of the Wall has been targeted,” he said. “A police investigation is underway. No arrests have been made yet, but we are investigating two suspects believed to be involved in the incident.”
Cidor said she blames haredi leadership for provoking such vandalism.
“The problem for me isn’t the graffiti – it’s that youngsters in [ultra-Orthodox] yeshivas are being told by rabbis that [Women of the Wall activity] is a desecration, so what do you expect them to do?”
“The problem is the leadership,” she said, adding that she hoped the attack could serve as a starting point for constructive dialogue between the opposing groups.
“What happened is a crisis, and I believe that a crisis is the best opportunity to stop and think over what happened and to create a dialogue.”
“There are many ways to express disagreements, and this should not be one of them,” she said. “I expect leaders from the haredi community to wake up and say this shouldn’t happen again.”
Cidor said this was the first time she has been targeted in such an attack but that she was not fearful.
“I’m not afraid, and even if I was, I would try to fight [the fear] from the inside, because fear is not the answer.
“I refuse to be worried about this – that would be caving in. I will be careful, but I refuse to be dragged into fear. I believe the haredim act this way because they are afraid, and fear is a bad adviser.”
She added that Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat sent her a personal message Monday from overseas to express his support and condemn the vandalism, and wrote that he would call her to discuss the matter.
Barkat also issued a statement strongly condemning the attack.
“The way to resolve disputes is not through violence, but with discourse and dialogue, and finding a compromise that will address the needs of all parties,” he said.
“Violent acts should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Cidor said the Jerusalem Municipality sent workers over Monday afternoon to remove the graffiti from her door.
In a statement on Facebook, Women of the Wall called on the rabbis and haredi leadership to condemn the vandalism and to end all incitement against the group.
“The real problem facing Israeli society is not what they did but what the leadership of the haredi public will do now. The writing is on the wall,” said the group.
Meretz MK Michal Rozin, who has participated in several of the group’s prayer services at the Western Wall, condemned the vandalism, calling it a “direct result of the wild incitement of haredi members of Knesset and communal leaders.”
In a statement to the press, Roizin said that the attack “crossed the line” and called on the haredi political and communal leadership to publicly condemn the attack and to call for such incidents to stop.
MKs from United Torah Judaism were involved in organizing a demonstration against the Women of the Wall earlier this month at the Western Wall that turned violent, with various objects thrown at the female worshipers during their prayer service.
Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinowitz issued a statement strongly condemning the graffiti attack.
“This is not the path of the Torah. ‘Its ways are pleasant and all its pathways are for peace,’” the rabbi said, quoting the book of Psalms.
He added that he has “warned against the lighting of fires and hatred,” and that he prayed that the downward spiral could be halted and a solution found so that “the Western Wall will remain a holy place that unites people, not one that creates dispute.”
The Women of the Wall has been waging a sustained campaign for equal prayer rights at the Kotel for over 23 years.
Last month, the Jerusalem District Court upheld an earlier decision of the magistrate’s court that women who wear prayer shawls (“tallitot” in Hebrew) at the Western Wall Plaza are not contravening “local custom” or causing a public disturbance and therefore should not be arrested.
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky is currently devising a plan to create an egalitarian prayer section at the site as a long-term solution for people wishing to pray there in a non-Orthodox format.
On Monday, Sharansky met with the Council of the Chief Rabbinate and presented the details of his plan to the assembled rabbis.
In a press statement, a spokesman for the council said that the body would wait until all details of the plan were finalized before taking a position on the provisions of Sharansky’s program.
The statement added that the rabbis see the activities of the Women of the Wall as “a provocation.”
Rabinowitz, who was also at the meeting, opined that it would be possible to come to an agreement with the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel on the issue, but labeled the Women of the Wall as “a militant and extremist faction with whom it is hard to enter into a dialogue.”