‘Women of the Wall’ Prepare for Second Round

The Women of the Wall group prepares for a repeat of last month’s conflict at the Kotel.

Maayana Miskin ,

'Women of the Wall'
'Women of the Wall'
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The self-titled Women of the Wall (WoW) group is preparing for a second round of conflict at the Kotel (Western Wall). The group plans to hold prayers at the holy site as it did last month, and is taking steps to deal with a potential repeat of last month’s protests.

In recent days the group began organizing transportation to the Western Wall for Sunday morning, when it plans to hold its monthly prayer service. Organizers hope that dozens of women will take part. There have never been more than 50-60 women in the prayer group.

The group will provide transportation from near the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem and from northern Tel Aviv, both upscale neighborhoods.

On its website, Women of the Wall has asked those interested in taking part to provide contact information so that they can receive security updates.

Last month thousands of Orthodox young Jewish women showed up at the Kotel on the day that Women of the Wall had scheduled its prayers in a silent show of support for the existing rules for prayer at the Kotel, which Women of the Wall seeks to overturn. They vastly outnumbered the WoW group, as the traditional women do every day, every hour of the day and night. The WoW come only on the first day of each month.

A smaller group of hareidi-religious men showed up as well, and some began shouting at Women of the Wall members, some throwing objects in their direction. Three people were arrested.

The Women of the Wall group holds prayers in which women wear tallit and tefillin, Jewish ritual prayer items traditionally worn only by men. They also have tried to bring a Torah and read from it. Halakha does not permit women to say the blessings for reading the Torah and they may not read it in a service where men are present. The WoW prayers violate the code of conduct at the Kotel, where strict rules are in place to prevent any religious group from offending another group’s cultural norms.

Women of the Wall argues that the rules should be changed to allow for a variety of forms of prayer services, including non-traditional prayers. Their head, Anat Hoffman, has said openly that she would like Conservative and Reform rituals to be recognized in Israel, including not only prayers, but laws of divorce and conversion.

The group has compared the liberation of the Kotel in 1967, when the city of Jerusalem was reunited following 19 years of Jordanian rule, to its own "liberation" of the rules at the Kotel.. A picture on the group’s website shows Women of the Wall members standing before the Kotel in a deliberate reconstruction of a famous photo from the Six Day War featuring young soldiers standing in awe after returning to the Old City.