Anat Hoffman

A Shameful Day at the Western Wall



Yesterday four women were detained at the Western Wall, each for wearing a tallit. The authorities say they were disturbing the public peace according to regulation 201 A4 of the Israeli legal code. The punishment for this crime is six months in prison. They also broke regulation 287A by performing a religious act that “offends the feelings of others.” The punishment for this crime is up to two years in prison.


When these four women wore their tallitot they challenged the division at the Western Wall. This is a place where men pray, dance, sing, sound the Sofar, read Torah, celebrate b’nei mitzvah, wave the lulov, and express their Judaism in any way they wish. Women, on the other side of the partition, stand silently in the little space that remains.

IRAC fights all layers of gender segregation in Israel, and I believe that the Kotel is ground-zero in the fight against gender exclusion. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us, one of the main strategies of non-violent struggle is to “dramatize” the injustice. There is a real need for drama to actualize how far the situation of women in the public sphere in Israel today is from the dream of the State’s founders. Israel’s founding document, our Declaration of Independence, had a vision of full equality for all the citizens of Israel irrespective of religion, race, or gender.

According to that vision, we are working to create a reality that is currently hard for Israelis to even imagine. In this we mean a Kotel where Israeli families will be able to pray together as a family, a Kotel where families can celebrate a bat mitzvah, a Kotel where egalitarian services can be held proudly, instead of hidden out of view from the Western Wall Plaza. I want to live to see it and for that I need your help.

The key to changing the status quo is in the hands of the authoritative that run the Kotel, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. This is why IRAC and the IMPJ are about to go to Israel’s Supreme Court to demand a change in the make-up of the Western Wall Heritage Council, which is currently made up completely of Orthodox Jews. We want this body to resemble the real diversity of the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora.

Click here to sign our Kotel petition asking for the Western Wall Heritage Council to include a diverse membership. We have over 10,000 names already, and we will reach our goal of 50,000 if everyone helps us get five more names. With that kind of support the Israeli Government will see that we cannot be ignored. Days like yesterday must stop.

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Anat Hoffman

About Anat Hoffman

Anat Hoffman is executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal and advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel.

15 Responses to “A Shameful Day at the Western Wall”

  1. were the women arrested israeli or foreign?

  2. It would be nice to think that women have choices. Good luck with your challenge.

  3. I thought Israel was a democracy and as such cannot allow extremists to determine laws. As a long time supporter of Israel, I was very distressed about this news.

  4. It is 2012, and it is outrageous that women are treated in this manner! There seems to be quite a similarity in the second class treatment women receive in strict observant within Jewish Orthodox as well as strict observant Muslim communities, each with men controlling women. The law MUST be changed if Israel is to be viewed as a democracy in the 21st century!

  5. PHILLIP E. MEDWED Reply August 30, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    ISRAEL IS SUPPOSED TO BE A COUNTRY OF EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL! HOW DARE THERE BE PUNISHMENT FOR ONE GENDER FOR WEARING TALIT BECAUSE THEY ARE FEMALE! IF THERE CANNOT BE EQUAL RIGHTS AT THE WALL, THEN MY SUGGESTION IS TO TAKE A WRECKING BALL AND KNOCK IT DOWN ONCE AND FOR ALL! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

  6. Sadly as women there is always a personal battle to protect our own rights and still fight to break new ground.

    This law should be challenged. It is a matter of respect for women, the right thing to do and just plain seichel!

  7. Women and men should be treated as equal. All groups of Jews, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, etc. should be accepted by all Jews. We are all part of one group. If we don’t stand together, who will stand for us?

  8. The year is 2012. It’s time to recognize the equality of the sexes. For men to control women’s lives in this manner, is insane. This is as bad as the taliban.

  9. In the Talmud, the daughter of a rabbi wa wearing tallit and tefillin. Women do not have the obligation halachically to wear tallit and tefillin but neither are they forbidden. Quelle honte!

  10. There should be NO descrimination against those who worship at the Kotel. Israel stands for justice, equality which includes woman. I urge you to change this unjust law!!!

  11. Yes, law must be changed.

  12. So, where do we sign this petition?

  13. This law that women may not wear tallitot at the Kotel is unjust and must be changed. May your challenge to this law go in your favor.

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