Dear Friends of IRAC,
There must be more than one way to liberate the Western Wall. It’s not only a job for paratroopers, a test that ended in the Six Day War of 1967. The Wall as a national and religious site now needs to be liberated from Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich’s control. Rabinovich is an Ultra-Orthodox rabbi who has been appointed as rabbi of the Wall by secular leaders in Israel who, like many Israelis, were brought up to believe that there is only one brand of authentic Judaism – Rabinovich’s brand. He was given absolute jurisdiction over the site; and he has abused his power. But the real problem is not Rabinovich: the problem is the absolute power he has over Israeli Judaism.
In the twenty-one years that members of Women of the Wall have prayed together, we’ve celebrated joy and lamented defeat. It was only a matter of time before someone demanded we stop. After twenty-one years of preparing for this day, I was actually taken by surprise when I was summoned to the Jaffa Gate Police Station on January 5th, 2010. I was warned I was being investigated for committing a felony. And my crime? I performed a religious act that offended the feelings of others: praying out loud, reading the Torah, and wearing a talit at the Kotel.
Rosh Hodesh of the upcoming Hebrew month of Shevat (15th of January) offers us an opportunity to build a force together that could liberate the Wall for all Jews. Shevat is the month for planting; we are all familiar with Tu’Beshevat when we plant trees all over Israel. I suggest that this year we plant pluralism as well. Like a tree, pluralism needs to be planted in the right place at the right time. I believe the time is now, and the place is the Wall.
I turn to Jews in the Diaspora from all denominations to ask for solidarity in our efforts to plant religious pluralism in Israel. Please send a letter in support of pluralism to your Israeli ambassador, and ask your family and friends to do the same. We have included a letter for you below.
Though we are scattered all over the world, and sown in different lands, we must come together in unity to plant a tikvah of our own. To be a free people in our land,/ The land of Zion and Jerusalem. – Hatikvah
Letter for your Israeli Ambassador:
On behalf of the Jewish people fighting for religious pluralism in Israel, I am outraged that one of our leaders, Anat Hoffman, was interrogated and fingerprinted by Jerusalem police on January 5th, 2010. Police told Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center and leader of Women of the Wall, that she may be charged with a felony for violating the rules of conduct at what many consider to be Judaism’s most sacred site.
Hoffman’s interrogation came less than two months after the November 18th, 2009 arrest of the Women of the Wall member Nofrat Frankel for wearing a talit and holding a sefer Torah.
We will not tolerate this discrimination and abuse to continue among our own people. Women are treated as second-class citizens at a holy and historic place that has great symbolic importance for all Jews.
If this were to happen in any other country in the world, the Jewish community would be up in arms. Israel is the rare democracy today that tolerates and even endorses religious discrimination against Jews.
Make no mistake: What appears to be a growing religious crisis in Israel is as much a threat to Israel's survival as are the external threats, and perhaps more so. Israel has shown that she can protect herself from armies and terrorists. Protecting herself from religious extremism may be Israel's biggest challenge--a challenge that cannot and must not be ignored by those who care about Israel’s soul.
Pass on our message to the Israeli government: the Kotel is the beating heart center for the whole of the Jewish people, and not an Ultra-Orthodox synagogue. The arrest and intimidation of women praying at the Wall must stop. The Wall must become a place where all Jews can pray and connect spiritually to Israel.
Address for the Israeli Ambassador to the United States:
Embassy of Israel
3514 International Dr. N.W.
Washington DC 20008