Just few weeks ago I wrote about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise in front of cheering crowds at the General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America when he said that he will “ensure that all Jews can feel at home in Israel… all Jews” and “ensure that the Kotel is a source of unity for our people, not a point of division.”
Since then his stance on women’s rights at the Kotel has gotten lost on translation. In Hebrew last week, according to www.wow.org.il and Israeli radio “Galei Zahal”, Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised the ultra-Orthodox party heads that there will be no change of the status quo at the Kotel and that women will not read Torah at the Kotel.
Apparently when Netanyahu spoke of “all” Jews in November 2015, he forgot that women make up half of all Jews. No Israeli Prime Minister has the right to take away Torah from half of all Jews. It is our hope that Netanyahu will not ban women from reading Torah, however if he does bend to the pressure of the Haredi parties, Women of the Wall will continue to read Torah in the women’s section of the Kotel. Even if we must hide our Torah scroll and smuggle it past the guards, we will do so just as Jews have been forced to do so many times before us in exile. It’s a very unfortunate situation as the Western Wall has become the greatest metaphor for the exclusion of women in the public sphere in Israel- grabbing national and international attention. The Administrator of the Western Wall, appointed by the Prime Minister and the Attorney General, must be held accountable for discriminatory regulations in the public space in Israel. I urge you to join Women of the Wall campaign to lobby Israel’s leaders and the government to move towards change.
Wishing you a peaceful Shabbat.
Blessings Rabbi Julia Margolis