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The Western Wall: ground zero for the struggle for equality and pluralism

Today Jane Eisner, editor in chief of The Forward, reported the second egregious injustice at the Western Wall in the following pieces.

Women of the Wall Leader Interrogated by Police

The leader of Women of the Wall, a group of women who gather monthly to pray at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, was questioned by police, fingerprinted, and told that she may be charged with a felony for violating the rules of conduct at what is considered Judaism’s most sacred site.

Anat Hoffman, director of the Israel Religious Action Center, said that police interrogated her for more than an hour on January 5 about her activities during Women of the Wall’s last monthly service in December. Speaking by phone from Jerusalem, Hoffman said she did nothing differently that day than she had for the 21 years of her group’s existence .... Read more

Liberating the Wall

Imagine, if you will, a group of devout Jews who regularly gather to pray at an ancient synagogue. Sometimes they are left alone, but other times they are verbally and physically harassed, spit at, cursed. If this were taking place in a country unfriendly to Jews, we would admire the worshippers’ dedication and perseverance, perhaps publicize their plight.

Then, imagine that one day, one of the worshippers is arrested, hauled into police custody for doing nothing more than offending the sensibilities of others, whatever that means. A month later, the leader of the group is questioned by police, fingerprinted and warned that she is at risk of arrest. Imagine the uproar! Imagine if this were Sweden or France or Argentina, and suddenly prayer became a crime. The Jewish defense organizations would broadcast their collective outrage with the speed of a “send” button .... Read more

In "Liberating the Wall," Jane Eisner argues that we -- as American Jews who value equality and pluralism within our community -- cannot sit idly by.  The Western Wall is also referred to as the "Wailing Wall," a name which has become increasinly relevant in recent months.  This historically sacred site has become ground zero for the battle over women's rights, and religious tolerance, and we have the responsibility to wail at the top of our lungs for what we believe in. 

Some ways to show your support for Women of the Wall are to write a letter to the editor or a blog post, make a donation, or add photos of your experiences with Women of the Wall to our Flickr group pool.  I would love to gather some more ways and ideas to make our voices heard.  How will you choose to take action?  Please tell us in the comments.

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Also, make sure to watch the JTA video interview with Anat Hoffman.

According to a kabbalist tradition, God answers the prayers of those who visit the Western Wall for 40 consecutive days. But not everyone lives in Jerusalem, and even denizens of the Holy City find it a challenge to visit the Old City shrine daily for nearly six weeks to avail themselves of divine intervention. Recognizing this need, in 2004 Jewish Quarter resident Batya Burd, 33, established Western Wall Prayers to say proxy prayers at the Kotel for those unable to be there personally. western wall

Renee Ghert-Zand also wrote a great post about this on her blog. Read it here.

Anat Hoffman, January 5, 2010
Full image
Anat Hoffman holds up her fingers, one of which is stained with ink, after being interrogated and fingerprinted by Israeli police, on January 5, 2010. 
Photo courtesy of The Forward.
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How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "The Western Wall: ground zero for the struggle for equality and pluralism." 7 January 2010. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 20, 2018) <>.


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