Women of the Wall, or Nashot Hakotel נשות הכותל in Hebrew, is a group of Jewish women from around the world who strive to achieve the right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem, Israel. The Western Wall is Judaism’s most sacred holy site and the principal symbol of Jewish people-hood and sovereignty, and Women of the Wall has worked since 1988 to make it a holy site where women can pray freely.
Last night, Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall Chair, was arrested at the Western Wall along with Director and Board Member: The Women of the Wall Press Release reads:
On the eve of the Jewish New Month of Cheshvan, 16.19.12, at 11:00 PM Anat Hoffman, Chair of Women of the Wall, was arrested while leading a prayer along with members of Hadassah, some of whom have travelled to Jerusalem from all over the world to celebrate Hadassah’s centennial convention.
Over 250 women joined Women of the Wall for a late night prayer which started off beautifully, until Hoffman was detained during the Shema prayer. Hoffman was held in police custody for over 12 hours, much of the time in handcuffs and has sustained bruises from violent and aggressive treatment while detained.
This morning, 17.10.12, at 7 AM, while Hoffman was still detained, Women of the Wall gathered for the monthly new month prayer service. Though the services went smoothly and quietly with no disturbance, police arrested Lesley Sachs, Director of Women of the Wall and board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, in the middle of prayer. The two women were detained and questioned for several hours. Upon release, the women were asked to admit to the crime of disturbing the public order, which they refused.
In court proceedings today, following her detainment, Anat Hoffman was accused of disturbing the public peace for singing out loud at the Western Wall. She was finally released and issued a restraining order from the Western Wall for 30 days.
The leadership of Women of the Wall is committed to their struggle to gain the right of all women to pray at the Kotel, each according to her own custom, with Torah, Tallit and voices raised in song. Violence, intimidation and threat will not deter the group of women from joining together and praying together to celebrate every new Jewish month at the Western Wall.
In October of 2012 in Rome, Italy, an international delegation of women’s ordination leaders including Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, marched to the Vatican with a petition signed by 15,000 supporters. Fr. Bourgeois has been threatened by church officials for his public support of women’s ordination. Members of the delegation including Fr. Bourgeois, Erin Saiz Hanna, Executive Director of Women’s Ordination Conference, and Miriam Duignan of Womenpriest.org were detained and then released by local police authorities.
The delegation of fifteen leaders was met by local police at the gate of St. Peter’s and was denied entry. Plain-clothes policemen apprehended the delegation’s banners stating “Ordain Catholic Women,” “God is calling women to be priests.” The banners have been withheld as evidence for a pending hearing with the charges of protesting without a permit and disturbing the peace. Those who were detained were not officially arrested but their case will be heard by a judiciary court.
All over the world patriarchal structures and “traditions” attempt to use religion to oppress and silence faithful women of prayer. The very symbolism of a woman wearing priestly or “male” prayer shawl threatens these systems of control and power. We have seen in the Roman Catholic tradition that the Vatican will stop at nothing to attempt to control the lives of women – threatening justice, charity, and service in their wake.
Today, we must be reminded not of the overwhelming kyriarchical oppressions that women face, but of the overwhelming solidarity and strength uniting all women who dare to speak and fight for justice. The Women’s Ordination Conference must stand with the Women of the Wall in our common heritage, our common tenacity, and our common prayer for justice, as we continue to model women’s leadership for women and girls at all levels of prayer and celebration. We send our prayers and blessings to Anat Hoffman and the Women of the Wall.
May it be Your will, our God and God of our mothers and fathers, to bless this prayer group and all who pray within it: them, their families and all that is theirs, together with all the women and girls of your people Israel. Strengthen us and direct our hearts to serve You in truth, reverence and love.
Women of the Wall prayer, found here