October 20, 2013
Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men hurl rocks at and slash the tires of buses bearing ads on their sides promoting female worship at the Western Wall.
The ads depict girls with prayer shawls and Torahs in front of the Wall and promote having a bat mitzvah at the Kotel. Among the girls featured in the ads are American comic Sarah Silverman’s neice. The ad campaign is run by Women of the Wall (WOW), a group of mostly religiously observant Jews who believe that women should be allowed to pray at the Western Wall with the same access and rights as men.
WOW was founded in 1988 at the First International Jewish Feminist Conference in Jerusalem when 100 women went to pray at the Wall and were met with verbal and physical assaults from Haredi men and women. WOW brought the issue of women praying at the Wall to the Supreme Court in 2002 and won, but the ruling was overturned on appeal. In 2005, WOW lost again.
The group’s court victory in 2013 does not end confrontations. In 2014, WOW members bring a miniature Torah to the Wall for the first bat mitzvah there. In 2015, women read from a full-size Torah at the Wall for the first time.
In 2016 the government approves the creation of an egalitarian prayer space at the Wall for men and women to pray together on equal terms. The decision sparks complaints from Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Israelis and the government reneged.
In April and October of 2021, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, a newly elected Labor MK and Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism used his parliamentary immunity to bring a Torah scroll to the wall for the women to pray with, and was each time met with opposition. Although the 2013 ruling allows women to read from the Torah, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation does not make any of its scrolls available to the women.