Several Egged buses featuring posters that urge young girls to hold their bat-mitzvah ceremonies at the Western Wall were attacked Monday night in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim, according to Women of the Wall, the feminist prayer group behind the advertising campaign.
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Police were called in after a group of ultra-Orthodox men threw paint on the posters and attempted to slash the tires of the buses.
The campaign, which was launched last week, features girls ages 11 to 14 wearing prayer shawls and holding a Torah scroll in front of the Western Wall. Written on the posters in Hebrew is the campaign slogan: “Mom, I also want a bat mitzvah at the Kotel.”
The marketing company which handles advertising on Egged buses reported to Women of the Wall that roughly half the posters had been vandalized since the campaign was launched, with images of the girls ripped off the buses.
“It is sad to yet again see the ultra-Orthodox men take the law into their own hands and using Judaism as an excuse for the use of force, threat and violence against women,” said Lesley Sachs, the director of the women’s organization that holds a monthly multi-denominational prayer service at the Jewish holy site.
Since the campaign was launched, Women of the Wall reported that it has received more than 60 phone calls on the special hot line set up to answer questions from families interested in organizing a bat mitzvah at the Kotel. About 15 percent were prank calls, the organization said.
Most Israeli girls do not celebrate their bat mitvahs by reading from their Torah portions, as is customary outside the country. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which oversees events at the Kotel, runs an active business of bar mitzvahs for boys at the site but nothing parallel for girls. Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, who heads the foundation, has denounced the recent Women of the Wall bus campaign as a provocation. Rabinowitz maintains that it is forbidden for women to read from the Torah and refuses to permit worshipers to bring Torah scrolls into the women’s section of the wall.
Despite this ban, Women of the Wall said today that they plan to bring a Torah scroll into the women’s section this Friday morning, when they will hold their monthly Rosh Chodesh service to mark the beginning of the new Jewish month. Sasha Lutt, one of the young girls featured on the posters, will celebrate her bat mitzvah at the gathering, where she plans to read from the Torah.