Bad press for ultra-Orthodox sexism shocks Netanyahu into plea for help

December 27, 2012
Sarah Benton

For the story behind this story see British teenagers get rough introduction to divide between Israel and diaspora; for background see Women against the patriarchs: from victims to frontierwomen

Women praying during a Selichot service at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Photo by Michal Fattal

Netanyahu to Jewish Agency: Find solution for non-Orthodox women at Western Wall

Last week, Israeli police detained women from a liberal Jewish group who approached the holy site in Jerusalem carrying prayer shawls.

By The Associated Press,  Andrew Esensten, Judy Maltz and Nir Hasson, Ha’aretz
December 25, 2012

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the Jewish Agency to find a solution for non-Orthodox Jewish female groups wishing to pray at one of Judaism’s holiest sites.

An official said Tuesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, to look into the matter. The official spoke anonymously according to government regulations.

Last week Israeli police detained women from a liberal Jewish group who approached the Western Wall in Jerusalem carrying prayer shawls. Orthodox Jews insist those are for men only. The women seek to worship at the site without such restrictions.

Jewish Agency spokesman Benjamin Rutland said Netanyahu told Sharansky that the Western Wall “must remain a source of Jewish unity rather than division.”

The women arrested on Friday arrived with Women of the Wall, a group of Jewish women who fight for the right to wear tallitot (shawls ), pray and read from the Torah out loud at the Western Wall.

“How ironic that, as Jews around the world celebrate the victory of spirit over forced assimilation, Jews who want to pray have their rights denied by an ultra-Orthodox hegemony,” the Progressive Judaism organization – an international umbrella of the Reform, Liberal, Progressive and Reconstructionist Jewish movements – said in a statement. “We call upon the state to heed its own Supreme Court and find a resolution. Until that happens, Israel still fails to live up to the ideals upon which it was founded, as a haven for Jews everywhere.”

The first woman detained on Friday included Women of the Wall board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, who refused to remove her prayer shawl as she entered the Western Wall Plaza. According to other members, she was detained and interrogated even before she approached the holy site, accused of disturbing the public order and of obstructing a police procedure.

The other three women – Rabbi Elyse Frishman of Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, and two 18-year-old women from the U.K. who are participating in an RSY-Netzer gap-year program – were held and interrogated. According to a statement by Women of the Wall, all four refused to sign an admission of disturbing the public peace and were released after three hours.

What is the Jewish Agency?

About Us, from Jewish Agency for Israel website
Foundations for Securing the Jewish Future

For over 80 years, the Jewish Agency has served as the link between the Jewish people and Israel, working to ensure the future of a connected, committed, global Jewish People with a strong Israel at its center. Together, we helped create and build the State and brought over 3 million Jews to Israel.

Today, we continue our work to secure the Jewish future. As we bring more olim and stand ready as the Jewish world’s first responder to crises both in Israel and around the world, the Jewish Agency is redirecting its primary focus toward the greatest challenge we currently face as a people – strengthening the Jewish identity of young Jews in both the Diaspora and Israel. Indeed, the solutions to local and overseas challenges facing Jews around the world depend on our revitalizing a strong sense of Jewish community, which has faded over the last generation

Our Mission

To Inspire Jews throughout the world to Connect with their people, heritage and Land, and Empower them to build a thriving Jewish future and a strong Israel.

The Jewish Agency pursues this mission by:

Forging strong connections to Israel through a sequence of Israel experiences for teens and young adults – from Birthright’s short visit to Israel, to Masa’s live‐and‐learn experience from 5 months to a year.

Facilitating aliyah for those who choose to make Israel their home.

Engaging young Jews from Israel and around the world in social activism, infusing them with Jewish purpose and connecting them to one another, while addressing the needs of vulnerable populations in Israel.

Reconnecting Jews from the former Soviet Union to their Jewish roots from which they were forcibly separated over 70 years of communist rule.

Rescuing Jews from countries of distress and re‐settling them in Israel.

Serving as first responder to crises in Israel and around the Jewish world.

© Copyright JFJFP 2017