Monday, May 27, 2013
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Friday, May 10, 2013
JTA: "Haredi Orthodox youth mob Western Wall in protest of women's prayer service"
By Ben Sales · May 10, 2013
JERUSALEM (JTA) – Haredi Orthodox youth mobbed the Western Wall plaza by the thousands to protest Women of the Wall as they held their monthly prayer service.
The youth, many of them students from haredi Orthodox yeshivot, had filled the Western Wall Plaza by 6:40 a.m. on Friday, 20 minutes before Women of the Wall, a women's prayer group that holds monthly services at the Wall, began praying. Because haredi Orthodox women had packed the women's section of the plaza earlier in the morning, Women of the Wall were forced to pray in the back section of the plaza, further away from the Wall itself.
The Women of the Wall service was the first since a ruling last month by a Jerusalem District Court judge that the group did not violate the law and deserved police protection rather than arrests.
Police were on hand Friday morning to protect the women, a reversall of scenes from months past, when women wearing prayer shawls to the monthly service would be arrested for breaking a law that outlawed any deviation from "local custom" at the wall. Police arrested three Haredi protesters and a police spokesman said more arrests may be in the offing as police review video.
One day before the service, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteynman, a haredi leader, called on thousands of students to protest Women of the Wall.
A constant din of screaming came from the crowd as the service began, and shrieks erupted as a woman wearing a prayer shawl tried to push through the mob to reach the service. Police, sometimes holding hands, sometimes linking arms, held back the crowd as two officers, with difficulty, escorted the woman through.
"It's sad that they're using the Kotel to advance their interests," said an Orthodox graphic designer from Jerusalem, 29, who declined to give her name. "They want to change all of Israel. It's an insult to this place."
Women of the Wall's service has rarely, if ever, seen this many people come to protest. Many of the haredim said that they were there to pray, as haredim do daily at the Wall.
"I came to pray and to protest gentiles who masquerade as Jews," said Pini, 17, from Jerusalem, who would not give his last name. "I've taken hits here and I'll take more hits. They're making the Torah crooked. They want us to be like them."
Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency who has been endeavoring to broker a modus vivendi at the Wall by expanding the prayer area, said the events of Friday morning underscored the need for such a solution.
In a statement he described an "urgent need" for a solution that would "allow any Jew, group of Jews or Jewish community to pray at the Western Wall according to their own custom.
Sharansky praised the police for protecting those engaged in prayer from "rioters."
As the service went on, the crowd of haredi Orthodox men tried to push through the police barricade several times – and almost succeeded before the officers pushed them back, sometimes manhandling a student or two along the way. As attempt after attempt to breach the police line failed, the men turned to throwing cups of water and coffee at police, journalists and – when they could – the women praying. One protester threw a chair.
At times, the haredi Orthodox crowd would itself break out into song, singing about the failure of wicked plans and the dominion of God.
Throughout it all, Women of the Wall prayed a full service, trying to sing over the screams that would rise every time a song began. For the first time in at least months, men and women mixed at the service, with no divider to separate them.
"This is an embarrassment and a shame how some people are acting to people who just want to pray," said Bracha, 66, who participated in Women of the Wall's service and also would not give her last name. "There's space for everybody. People need to relate with understanding to those who don't do the same thing as them."
For some supporters of Women of the Wall, Friday's conflict was about more than the right to pray freely at Judaism's holiest site.
"This is a struggle for democracy in Israel," said Lucas Lejderman, 30, a counselor in the Conservative Jewish youth movement here.
Whether protesters will turn out in equal numbers when Women of the Wall meet next month is unclear. But as the crowd dispersed, the women sang Hatikvah, Israel's national anthem.
As if on cue, the handful of protesters who remained booed at the top of their lungs.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
PRESS RELEASE: RABBIS FOR WOMEN OF THE WALL ISSUE STATEMENT SUPPORTING NETANYAHU, SHARANKSY AND JERUSALEM DISTRICT COURT DECISION
RABBIS FOR WOMEN OF THE WALL ISSUE STATEMENT SUPPORTING
NETANYAHU, SHARANKSY AND JERUSALEM DISTRICT COURT DECISION
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - May 8, 2013
Rabbi Pamela Frydman 415-261-3404 (from outside U.S. 001-415-261-3404), firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbis for Women of the Wall has expanded its core to over eighty rabbis and a growing group of cantors from across the streams of the Jewish people. These leaders have issued a statement calling on the Israeli government to adhere to the April 24, 2013 Jerusalem District Court ruling, by permitting and protecting Women of the Wall as they pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem while wearing tallitot and reading from a Torah scroll. The statement goes on to praise the efforts of Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Prime Minister Netanyahu for appointing Sharansky to come up with an inclusive plan for the Kotel area. The statement concludes with points that signatories hope will be taken into consideration as the Sharansky Plan is implemented.
Every Jew is invited to lend his or her name to the statement at http://www.rabbisupportpluralism.org/ which is being emailed to the government officials named in it and to other Members of Knesset.
Among Rabbis for WOW leaders are Rabbis Susan Silverman, Robyn Fryer Bodzin, Debra Cantor and Valerie Stessin, who have experienced being arrested and detained with Women of the Wall for wearing a prayer shawl at the Western Wall. Also included are Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Senior Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism and Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, founder of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL). Honorary Co-Chairs and Vice Chairs include Richard Skolnik, International President of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Ruth Messinger, Elana Sztokman and Hallel Abramowitz-Silverman, an Israeli of American descent who was arrested for wearing a prayer shawl at the Kotel. Hallel and her mother, Rabbi Susan Silverman, are related to comedienne Sarah Silverman.
Rabbis for Women of the Wall was founded on October 18, 2010 by twenty-eight rabbis issuing a joint statement. Within two weeks, the 2010 statement garnered the support of 400 rabbis and 500 others and gained coverage in the Jerusalem Post. <http://tinyurl.com/bpfmp8l> By January 2011, Rabbis for WOW encompassed over 700 rabbis, 80 cantors, 80 organization heads and 1200 others, and held meetings with Israeli government officials. <http://tinyurl.com/cs2eka9>
On the eve of the May 2013 launch, Rabbi David Kalb, International Co-Chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall stated: "Jerusalem District Court Judge Moshe Sobel's decision reflects a real change for the betterment of Israel and world Jewry and represents the beginning of true respect for different points of view in Israel with regard to Judaism. This approach to diversity has the potential to bring Klal Yisrael (the entire Jewish people) together to create a greater commitment for every Jew to Torat Yisrael (the Torah of Israel), Medinat Yisrael (the State of Israel) and Am Yisrael (the Jewish people).
International Co-Chair Rabbi Pamela Frydman added: "In the Jewish state, there is no separation between synagogue and state. A divorcing couple may choose between religious court and civil court to adjudicate matters of property, support and custody. We firmly believe that within this model, minhag ha-makom (the custom of the place) includes the determinations of the civil court, as well as the religious court and the religious functionary (mara d'atra) in defining and implementing minhagei ha-makom in congregations, communities, and districts. We firmly believe that Judge Sobel's ruling will continue to clear the way for women to be allowed to pray with tallit and Torah reading at the Kotel, regardless of whether it is paired with the 2003 Supreme Court ruling or the 1981 amendments to the Holy Sites Law or any law relating to holy sites and minhagei ha-makom (customs of the place) at the Western Wall."
Rabbi Kalb concludes: "We are more committed than ever in our support of Women of the Wall and religious freedom in Israel. May pluralism in the cause of Jewish unity be victorious in our time."
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
For first time, police say won't stop Women of Wall from praying with prayer shawls, phylacteries this Friday. Jewish Agency chairman submits request for building permits around Western Wall plaza ahead of implementation of his program for mixed public praying at site
Published: 05.07.13, 15:27 / Israel Jewish Scene - http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4377285,00.html
This coming Friday, members of the Women of the Wall organization will be able, for the first time, to pray at the Western Wall plaza wearing a prayer shawl and phylacteries, and even to recite the Kaddish and Kedushah prayers, which they have been banned from doing until now.
The police have clarified, however, that they would not allow Torah scrolls into the women's section.
The attorney general and state prosecutor decided Monday not to petition the Supreme Court against theJerusalem District Court's ruling, which says women may pray with prayer shawls and phylacteries, and instead to emphasize a strict rather than ambiguous interpretation of the regulations defining the holy site.
The Knesset's Committee on the Status of Women convened Tuesday for a special discussion initiated by Committee Chairwoman Aliza Lavi (Yesh Atid), in the presence of Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who presented his outlinefor solving the situation at the Western Wall.
Sharansky: Move materializing
The Jewish Agency chairman, who came up with the outline for equality at the Western Wall, said he had submitted a request for building permits around the site as part of the efforts to implement the plan. He said a dialogue was being held with the archeologists, some of whom are against works in the area for religious reasons.
Another obstacle Sharansky pointed to was the Muslim Waqf's objection, which has not been voiced so far but could be aroused by certain elements. He said he believed the government would fund the project on its own, but that the world Jewry would chip in if needed.
Sharansky declared, however, that the creation of an equal plaza could begin within a month and that the first stage could be completed within 10 months. He referred to the move as highly significant, saying it would provide a response to most of the existing problems. He added that the mentioned obstacles would not delay its implementation, but only the final stage whose implementation would take another two years.
At this stage, he told Ynet, the only thing delaying the start of the work was the need to wait for the building permits, which he said were expected to be received within a relatively short period of time.
The Jewish Agency chairman added that the Western Wall was a unique site, raising national and religious interest worldwide, and that every Jew in Israel and abroad had a special connection to the place.
"There's a natural interest for every Jew in the world to be able to come and express solidarity with his people and religion," he said. "The solution will not be in court or in Knesset legislation, but in a very wide agreement between all parts of the Jewish people. We must find a solution for everyone.
Sharansky noted that the parties were still at odds over the balance between the current Western Wall plaza's national and religious character (for example, in holding state ceremonies), and that he supported the Reform demand to add representatives to the foundation running the site.
"What will happen this Friday can contribute to the move and can destroy the move," he said. "I appeal to both side. The government has made an unprecedented decision in regards to the Women of the Wall's prayer, allowing them to pray their way. But even if they cannot do it with Torah scrolls, it's very important to keep calm."
Police: Torah scroll banned
The police representative clarified during the discussion that the police would not act against the District Court ruling on Friday. "We will not prevent the Women of the Wall from praying their way – at least in terms of a prayer shawl, phylacteries, Kaddish and Kedushah," he said.
He clarified, however, that they won't be allowed to bring in a Torah scroll due to a regulation of a Western Wall rabbi which bans the entry of an external Torah scroll.
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz said during the discussion that no one, including himself, was satisfied with the suggested solution, and that perhaps that was proof that the Sharansky outline was the right one.
The rabbi added that he was uncertain that the outline could be fully implemented, but that it was necessary to reach a wide agreement and recognition by all sides of the Western Wall as a uniting place – out of national responsibility.
"Without that, there is no use to start working and reach a political and possible diplomatic conflict. What for?"
He slammed the Women of the Wall, which he said were seeking to create a provocation, by quoting a statement made by the group's chairwoman, Anat Hoffman, that she and her friends wanted "to see and be seen." He said it proved that they were seeking to "injure Orthodox people's heart."
Knesset Member Israel Eichler (United Torah Judaism) attacked the women as well, saying that "they are getting money for it. They are not here to pray. They want to lead to bloodshed in this holy place… Will the Waqf will let them wear a prayer shawl on the Temple Mount?"
In response, Sharansky invited Eichler to solve the problem, saying: "Come negotiate with them. I don't have the mandate to do it."
'Prevent violence during Friday prayer'
"We should read the writing on the wall," said MK Lavi, who convened the meeting. "Leaving the situation vague, when it's unclear what is permitted and what is forbidden, may lead to different consequences on Friday. During tomorrow's discussion we'll try to create a dialogue between all relevant parties, and reach agreements which will prevent violence during the Friday prayer."
About two weeks ago, the Jerusalem District Court said that the wearing by women of traditional male prayer accessories was not a violation of "local custom" or a "provocation," the legal reasoning that allows police to act. The ruling also said that women were not obligated to pray at the alternative Robinson's Arch site.
The attorney general said Monday that he had decided not to appeal the District Court ruling for fear that the Supreme Court would choose a more lenient interpretation of the law as well. Instead, he took the easier way of changing the regulations, which are under the exclusive authority of the religious affairs minister.