Women Blow Shofar and Raise Torah Scroll at Western Wall Prayer Protest

Relative Calm Prevails at Monthly Gathering

getty images

By JTA

Published August 07, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Women of the Wall blew a shofar at the back of the Western Wall Plaza and raised a Torah scroll at the plaza’s gate as they completed their service under a heavy police barricade.

Women of the Wall gathers at the beginning of each Jewish month for a women’s Rosh Chodesh prayer service at the Western Wall. Members had been arrested in the past for wearing prayer shawls due to a law forbidding any practice that falls outside of the wall’s “local custom.”

In April, a judge determined that the group’s activities did not contravene the law. Since then, none of the women has been arrested.

As in recent months, thousands of mostly haredi Orthodox girls and young women packed the plaza adjacent to the wall and prayed quietly during Wednesday morning’s service, while police barricaded Women of the Wall at the back of the plaza, facing the wall but distant from it.

A heavy police barricade, with up to six layers of fencing, a 15-foot buffer zone and two lines of police, separated the estimated 300 women and their male supporters from a crowd of mostly haredi Orthodox protesters who blew whistles, screamed and chanted insults. In the men’s section of the plaza, a man chanted prayers and psalms into a megaphone, disrupting the women’s service.

Last month, the women were barricaded in the plaza’s corner, far from the wall and next to a public restroom. Women of the Wall have not been allowed to bring a Torah scroll into their monthly service, but before entering the plaza, the group sang together as one woman held a scroll aloft at the plaza’s gate.

Recent months have seen a new status quo develop at the wall during Women of the Wall services. Orthodox girls arrive en masse and pray quietly next to the Wall. Police place Women of the Wall under a heavy barricade, and protesters try to interrupt them.

While the protest at May’s service was raucous and violent, Wednesday’s was relatively tame, if dissonant. By the time Anat Hoffman, the group’s chairwoman, blew the shofar, most of the protesters had dispersed.

Following the service Hoffman said in a statement: “We will not forget that the Torah is exiled from the Western Wall, due to the discriminatory misuse of power by Rabbi Rabinowitz. Israel is the only democracy in the world that by law prohibits women from reading Torah. Unfortunately, the only people who felt at home today at the Kotel were the ultra-Orthodox worshippers and the police, and Rabinowitz collaborated towards this end.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.