Women FOR the Wall, a grassroots organization of traditional women dedicated to preserving the sanctity of the Western Wall, has issued a challenge to the most recent campaign launched on Jerusalem city buses by the ultra-liberal group Women of the Wall.
While the signs call on young girls to celebrate their Bat Mitzvot at the Kosel, Women of the Wall Chairperson Anat Hoffman has stated that the true aim of the campaign is to force a change in the current status quo and enable women to read the Torah at the Kosel.
Leah Aharoni, co-founder of Women FOR the Wall, repudiated the renewed attempts “to stir up conflict over the most sensitive and holiest site to the Jewish People. Women of the Wall know that they are free to celebrate Bat Mitzvot at the Ezrat Israel section of the Kosel, designated for egalitarian prayer. Instead, they are trying to create a public controversy to impose their viewpoints on the overwhelming majority of Kosel visitors, who are interested in preserving the centuries-old tradition at the site.”
Women are free to pray as they choose at the Ezrat Israel egalitarian section of the Wall. Aharoni noted that “WoW are not satisfied with a compromise. Now they are trying to force change at the main Kosel Plaza.”
The egalitarian section has been practically empty since opening a year ago. Aharoni explained, “Jews are voting with their feet and almost nobody is choosing to pray at the section that WoW has claimed to be so essential.” Aharoni called the current campaign a desperate attempt to create dissention and garner publicity for Women of the Wall, who have faded from public view.
“Over the last cataclysmic summer, Israel has changed. We have become a society that is more caring and united. The division that WoW is bringing is undermining this new spirit,” she added.
Aharoni also called on Jerusalem’s charedi population to refrain from defacing the WoW-sponsored signs on buses. “We find the campaign offensive; still we call on everyone to respect the freedom of speech that each citizen enjoys in Israel.” She added her hopes that the American backers of this campaign would realize “that in a time when so many crucial issues face Israel, we should seek ways to promote Jewish unity instead of division. Respectful and fruitful conversation is possible.”
Women for the Wall is dedicated to ensuring that the Western Wall can be a place for all Jews to come and pray with respect and dignity. It believes that only by preserving the centuries-old Jewish practice at the Wall can it be a place where all Jews can be welcome.