Women of the Wall Defy State Ruling To Perform Priestly Blessing at Kotel

JERUSALEM — The Women of the Wall held a priestly blessing as part of its monthly service at the Western Wall, despite a ruling by Israel’s attorney general forbidding the practice.

The women also brought a Torah scroll to the Monday morning Rosh Chodesh prayer service, which they have been prohibited from in the past. Some 120 women participated in Monday morning’s service.

Both actions violate traditional customs of the site, and are therefore supposed to be excluded.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit last month said he would prohibit a women’s priestly blessing ceremony from going forward during the intermediate days of Passover. In announcing the ceremony, to be held at the Western Wall’s women’s section, Women of the Wall had declared it “the first of its kind.” Tens of thousands of Jews flock to the Western Wall to receive the blessing from kohanim, or descendants of ancient Israel’s priestly caste, during the intermediate days of Passover.

After threatening to hold the ceremony on Passover despite the ruling, the women eschewed the blessing during their holiday service at the Western Wall.

On Monday during prayers for the new month of Iyar, the women brought to wall a 250-year-old Torah scroll brought from Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, to be used for a women’s Torah reading at the holy site. Police officers attempted to confiscate the scroll, but retreated when the women closed ranks, according to the Women of the Wall.

The group maintains that performing the Priestly Blessing during services for the new month is not a violation of local custom since the blessing is a part of the regular service in Israel.

The Rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch, decried the Women of the Wall’s “divisive actions” in a statement issued to the media. He called criticized the women’s “brazen disregard for the customs of the place and the traditions of Israel and the feelings of the worshipers.”

“These women are insisting on deepening an actual rupture at the Western Wall, the only place that unites the people of Israel from all sectors and from all ethnic groups,” he said in the statement.

A 2013 Supreme Court ruling acknowledged the women’s right to pray at the Western Wall according to their beliefs, claiming it does not violate what has come to be known as “local custom.”

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires 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 and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. 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 Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Women of the Wall Defy State Ruling To Perform Priestly Blessing at Kotel

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close
Close