Threatening letters were sent Monday to the offices of Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yonah Metzger. The identical letters said that this was the Chief Rabbis' “last chance” to drop their opposition to allowing women's groups to pray as they wish at the Western Wall.
The letters included threatening language and images. A drawing of a gun was scrawled on the letters. The text said that if the rabbis did not allow women – specifically "Women of the Wall" – to pray at the Western Wall as they wished, the rabbis “would return home with the dead bodies of hundreds of hareidi Jews.”
The letters included vituperative language aimed at the religious public as well, adding that women's rights groups would “no longer hold back. We will liberate the Kotel all over again.”
The Director of the Chief Rabbis' offices, Oded Wiener, has submitted the letters to government security officials for an investigation. The Prime Minister's Office is responsible for the Chief Rabbis' security. Police are set to open their own investigation, a spokesperson for the police said.
Many religious Jews, both male and female, oppose the form of prayer held by the women's group, who insist on the equal right to pray out loud next to the Western Wall with tallit and tefillin as men do, as well as reading from the Torah.
In a statement, the Chief Rabbis offices termed the threats “shocking,” and “the crossing of a red line. This is the first time the Chief Rabbis' lives have been threatened. Unfortunately, we have already seen how words can kill,” the statement said, evoking the murder of former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. “This is not just a threat against the rabbis, but against an entire community. We hope the police will track down these inciters and deal with them appropriately," the statement added.
An additional threatening letter was sent to Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Kotel and Holy Places. The letter was also signed by the “Women of the Wall” female prayer group, and said that the group would physically harm the rabbi if the group was not allowed free access to the Western Wall.
In a statement, the Women of the Wall group said that they were “saddened to hear about the threats of violence against the Chief Rabbis. Anyone with any sense knows that Women of the Wall have no connection to these threats, and that they do not represent the values of love of the Jewish people that guide us. We hope police will find out who sent these letters, and we stand ready to help in any way possible.”