Who Belongs at the Kotel?
Dr. Laurie Radovsky • TCJewfolk.com
…The Women of the Wall group was obvious; they were the 150 women gathered at the back of the women’s section who were being led through Shacharit by a woman with a lovely voice. Her chanting was sometimes drowned out by men who shouted over the mechitza at us.
The secular police, some of whom did not even wear kippot (required of all men at the Kotel), were an irritating presence. They told women at the edge of the group that they had to wear their tallitot round their necks like a scarf if they wanted to keep them on. At one point a female police officer circled us, videotaping the participants.
At the end of Shacharit , we were supposed to conduct our Torah service at Robinson’s Arch, the area outside the Kotel proper designated as acceptable for “alternative” prayer services. Anat Hoffman, the spokesperson for Women of the Wall, decided to take the Torah out of its duffle bag and carry it openly to Robinson’s Arch rather than leave it hidden.
The group turned, singing, to leave, led by Anat and the Torah.
The police officer who was in charge of security around our group was clearly infuriated by this. He got behind Anat and began to push her, trying to hustle her out of the Kotel area as quickly as possible. Anat continued to move as slowly as she could despite the police pressure to move along.
Once we were out of the Kotel courtyard, the police tried to wrestle the Torah out of Anat’s arms. She refused to let go, and they arrested her with the Torah still in her arms. Her offense? Walking with a Torah at the Kotel, an act that occurs in countless synagogues across the world. While one could argue that Anat’s activities were politically motivated, it is still a slap in the face to liberal Judaism that our practice should be so marginalized as to be considered illegal.…