Thursday, August 8, 2013

JFNA CEO Jerry Silverman Reports from the Kotel

Dear Friends,

Today (Wednesday) marked another eventful day in Jerusalem as the Women of the Wall organization (WoW) held their monthly prayer meeting at the Western Wall (Kotel) this morning, celebrating the new month of Elul. No arrests were made, but the WoW were not able to pray in the women's section of the Kotel, nor to pray with a Torah scroll as they had intended. Tikva Schein from our Israel office was present and reports on the developments.

Well before the announced start of the WoW service at 7am, the women's section of the Kotel was packed full largely by ultra-orthodox young women, leaving no room for any additional communal service.

The three hundred WoW supporters were forced to stay outside in the plaza area and were cordoned off by the police.

Police had urged both protesting sides not to create problems as police forces are required in greater number than normal today on the Temple Mount. Tens of thousands of Muslims are expected today for the last day of Ramadan. Police had assured the WoW that they would escort the group safely to the women's section of the Kotel, where they could pray – but this promise was not fulfilled. See the map attached to this email for the location of the service.

The Women of the Wall tried to bring a Torah Scroll in to the women's section but were not allowed. This attempt was in contravention of the high court ruling, stating that no Torah scroll is permitted in the area other than those provided by the Western Wall authorities, who prohibit any scrolls being used outside the men's section. Several WoW members stood outside the Kotel complex, holding a Torah scroll in protest.

Around fifty ultra-orthodox men and boys protested the WoW service, loudly blowing whistles throughout the entire service, causing great disruption.

In addition, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Kotel plaza, was broadcast leading an orthodox Rosh Chodesh prayer service over loudspeakers. This is the second time that loudspeakers have been used in this religious context; normally they are only employed for official ceremonies held at the Kotel.

A few tried to bridge gaps and talk to one another, but generally tensions ran high.

The protest drew the attention of all present and was fuelled by the heavy media presence.
In addition to the WoW prayer service and counter protest, a quiet group of over fifty national religious/ Modern Orthodox people protested the refusal of Police to admit Jews on to the Temple Mount, the most holy site in Judaism, for the full duration of Ramadan. Tourists and non-Jews have been allowed up as normal.

At the end of the WoW service, over ten women joined together in proudly blowing the shofar, as traditionally occurs during the month of Elul.

President and CEO
Jewish Federations of North America


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