American Jews Launch Protests for Women's Right To Pray at Western Wall

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Gimme Prayer: Demonstrators outside the Israeli embassy in Washington backed women’s right to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
nathan guttman
Gimme Prayer: Demonstrators outside the Israeli embassy in Washington backed women’s right to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

By Nathan Guttman

Published March 12, 2013.
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Israeli police have intervened to arrest women during past protests, including last month when they detained Rabbi Susan Silverman, the sister of comedian Sarah Silverman, along with the rabbi’s teenage daughter.

UPDATE: 3 Knesset members join protest at Western Wall. No arrests for first time in months.

In Washington, the Israeli embassy chose to embrace the protesters, sending the embassy spokesman Aaron Sagui to greet the women and men gathered across the road.

“We respect you, we respect the way you delivered your message,” said Sagui, adding that the Israeli government is interested in a dialogue with the Diaspora Jewry over the issue. “We want to find a way to co-exist as the sisters and brothers that we are,” he said.

In a symbolic act of solidarity, protesters outside the Israeli embassy wrapped themselves in prayer shows and read aloud a prayer for the women in Israel.

Anat Hoffman, chair of Women of the Wall in Israel, sent a letter to participants thanking them for coming out to express support.

“As we prepare for possible violence as a result of this incitement,” Hoffman wrote, referring to the calls in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem to take to the streets against the women, “we gain an immense amount of strength and comfort from known that you are with us.”

The American protests are part of an effort to raise the temperature on the issue, which has so far not received much attention in Israel itself.

Jewish organizations and activists in the Diaspora have raised in the past in conversations with Israeli leaders and diplomats.

But so far, all Israel has done is to form a committee chaired by Natan Sharansky, head of the Jewish Agency, to examine the issue.

Under Israeli law, the Western Wall is under the administrative responsibility of a body dominated by the Orthodox rabbinate which ruled women are limited to a segregated part of the wall and are not allowed to wear prayer shawls if they resemble the shawls worn by men.


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