Women of the Wall, the feminist women's group with a penchant for provocation at the holy Jerusalem prayer site, is calling on Israeli women to join a new campaign for 'putting tefillin on people' on city streets, this time in the heart of Tel Aviv.
As part of its public attention-drawing activity, Women of the Wall decided to adopt the Chabad model, in which Lubavitch hassidim offer passersby a chance to fulfill the biblical commandment of putting on tefillin. Just that in Women of the Wall's activity the tefillin will be offered to women only.
Women are allowed to don tefillin, but are not obligated to do so, as it is a time-dependent commandment from which women are exempt.
"My sister, did you put on tefillin today? Would you like to enwrap yourself in a tallit?", calls the group's Facebook post announcing the "Tefillin Event" this coming Friday.
Women of the Wall claim they seek to "make religion accessible" to women, saying: "Women of the Wall seek to make religion accessible to women and to allow women to observe the commandments from which they have distanced us for thousands of years."
"On Friday, March 23, we will arrive at the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv and build 2 stalls where we'll allow women to wear a prayer shawl and put on phylacteries, usually for the first time.
"Girls and women who have had the privilege of performing these mitzvot for the first time with us tell us about a powerful spiritual experience. Waiting for you at the entrance to the Carmel Market on Allenby Street."
Women of the Wall describe themselves as having "engaged in a 30 year long struggle to achieve equality for women at the Western Wall," although the Wall Plaza women's prayer area is filled daily by hundreds of women who prefer to pray in their own section, as halakha mandates, and find the Women of the Wall, who arrive there only on the first day of every new Hebrew month, an annoying disturbance.
The group has been careful in the past not to engage in "issues that are outside the purview of our struggle".
Their website once called the Western Wall “the principal symbol of Jewish peoplehood and sovereignty,” and referred positively to “the Jewish people’s return to Jerusalem in 1967.”
However, after being called out by Israeli NGO Mattot Arim for refusing to take part in efforts to oppose last year's UN anti-Kotel resolution, today their website says only: "The Kotel is a central symbol of Jewish unity to Jews around the world."
Mattot Arim had pointed out to WoW that the UNSC Resolution stated that "the UN Security Council does not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including thoe regarding Jerusalem.” This means the UN considers not only Judea and Samaria, but also all of eastern Jerusalem, the Western Wall and the Old City, territory “illegally occupied” by Israel.
WoW said in response that it would not take a stance on the resolution nor join the effort to rescind it. The Women wrote to Mattot Arim that their struggle is “to achieve equality for women” at the Kotel. They said they “choose not to comment on issues which are outside the purview of our struggle” because “our group comprises women of many different political persuasions.”
In a follow-up email, Mattot Arim asked, “Don’t all your members believe that the Kotel is the principal symbol of Jewish sovereignty [as your website says]? Doesn’t the organization have a problem with UNSC 2334’s call to end the Israeli occupation of the Kotel that began in 1967?”
Mattot Arim noted the WoW website said Women of the Wall works to make the Kotel “a holy site where women can pray freely” - whereas UNSC 2334 “calls to revoke the Jewish state’s sovereignty over the Kotel and to make the Kotel a site where no Israelis or visitors to Israel can pray freely, neither women nor men. Is this no cause of concern for your organization?”
WoW remained steadfast in not wanting to join the effort to oppose the UN resolution. Contacted by Arutz-7, WoW said, "Women of the Wall is engaged in a 30 year long struggle to achieve equality for women at the Western Wall. Our group comprises women of many different political persuasions. We respect these differences, and choose not to comment on issues that are outside the purview of our struggle."