Amid Violence, Women of the Wall Vote Not to Engage Police This Month

Group leaders notify Western Wall rabbi they won’t be bringing in a Torah on Wednesday.

A Jewish woman wears a prayer shawl as she prays at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray in Jerusalem's old city, Monday, Nov. 4, 2013.

In light of mounting security threats in Jerusalem, Women of the Wall, the feminist prayer group, has decided to avoid any action that might distract police from maintaining calm in the city.

The organization’s leaders have notified Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall, that they will make no attempt during their monthly prayer service on Wednesday to bring a Torah scroll into the women’s section of the Kotel.

In recent months, the multi-denominational women’s prayer group has tried to sneak its own Torah scrolls into the plaza – sometimes successfully and sometimes not – in defiance of regulations at the holy site. Often, police forces have been forced to intervene to avoid clashes between the women’s prayer group and ultra-Orthodox protesters.

Jerusalem police have been on high alert in wake of the recent spate of stabbings in the city, with the area of the Western Wall and the Old City a particular hotspot.

In a letter to Rabinowitz, Women of the Wall Chairwoman Anat Hoffman noted that the decision to refrain this month from bringing in a Torah was motivated by a “spirit of responsibility” and a desire “to refrain from bothering police.”

However, she did request that the Western Wall rabbi make a Torah scroll available to the prayer group from the men’s section. According to existing regulations at the holy site, worshippers are not allowed to bring in their own scrolls to the Western Wall, but several dozen are available for use in the men’s prayer section. In the past, Rabinowitz has denied requests by Women of the Wall to borrow these.

Hoffman asked that a scroll be made available so that two young girls could celebrate their bat mitzvahs at the holy site on the first day of the Jewish month of Cheshvan, which will be celebrated this week.