“Liberating” the Western Wall — again

This morning in Jerusalem, the Women of the Wall brought heavy Israeli symbolism along with 150 participants to their monthly peaceful protest — three of the IDF veterans who captured the wall in the 1967 war. All went uninterrupted for the first time in 22 months until they departed through security, where nine women were separated and detained. Those included Anat Hoffman, Rabbi Susan Silverman (sister of comedian Sarah Silverman), and Rabbi Silverman’s daughter Hallel, and eight-month pregnant rabbinical student Lior Nevo.

Quoted in the Jerusalem Post, Ilon Bar-Tov, a paratrooper who fought in the Old City battles, “It’s unacceptable that the police are stopping women from wearing tallitot, it’s like Iran. I can’t believe they are stopping people from praying one way or another.”

Although the term “liberating” the Western Wall is hard to borrow, the symbolism is obviously aimed at Israeli mainstream ears. The iconic faces of these paratroopers grace every postcard stand and Jerusalem Day poster since the event itself. Their names are nearly household. Petitions submitted to the Supreme Court are challenging the all-haredi representation on the board of the plaza’s governing body, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. All denominations and the secular public should be able to participate in the decisions affecting the plaza, they argue.

And it’s working to force the Israeli government to pay attention. In late December, Prime Minister Netanyahu for the first time acknowledged the unsustainable status quo at the plaza. The American Reform and Conservative movements, along other diaspora women’s groups, have stood solidly behind Women of the Wall. The most previous arrests of Anat Hoffman pushed even the Jewish Agency board to demand a change. The Prime Minister asked Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky to “look into the matter” and report back after the elections. Hearing that, ultra-orthodox extremist groups deplored the presence of “Zionist occupation” and “whores” at the Wall.

Do the government utterances of “unsustainable status quo” and “look into the matter” strike you as similar to another conflict in the region?

Filed under Activism, Israel, Jerusalem, Prayer

4 Responses to ““Liberating” the Western Wall — again”

  1. Although the term “liberating” the Western Wall is hard to borrow…


    I can understand discomfort from a leftist perspective at other aspects of the 1967 war being deemed “liberation.” And the clearing of the Mughrabi quarter is certainly not without controversy.

    But given that the Jordanians kicked out every last Jew from the Old City, destroyed all but one of the Jewish quarter’s synagogues, and altogether prohibited Jewish prayer at the Kotel for nearly two decades, how was the opening up of the holiest place in Judaism for Jews to pray NOT “liberation”?

    themicah · February 12th, 2013 at 5:30 pm
  2. I would applaud Anat Hoffman and the other activists were they to do all this on the Temple Mount itself, where any sign of Jewish worship is proscribed by Israeli government policy and Jews attempting to pray (even silently!) are tackled to the ground, beaten and dragged away. Needless to say, such incidents pass without mention in Jewschool (is that implicit support, or complicit support, I’m struggling to narrow it down).

    Until then… media-grubbing posers, the lot of them.

    Victor · February 12th, 2013 at 11:56 pm
  3. Until then… media-grubbing posers, the lot of them.

    Amen, Victor.

    Upsiditus · February 13th, 2013 at 10:09 pm
  4. In the interest of openmindedness and pluralism, readers might be interested in reading ‘the other side of the story’ to get a perspective on why Orthodox Jews, such as myself who was bar mitzvahed reform, do not agree with Hoffman’s actions. I wrote an article about it here: patentlyjewish.com/women-of-the-wall-but-i-want/

    Michael Feigin, Esq., NY, NJ Patent Attorney · February 19th, 2013 at 3:43 pm

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