“The Women of the Wall”, a feminist activist group that seeks to push for female Torah readings at the Western Wall, something considered an extreme provocation, tried Sunday morning to bring a Torah scroll into the Western Wall plaza, and they were forcefully prevented by the security guards in the scene.
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation said in response "A small group of the women of the Wall came to the Western Wall plaza and provoked provocations and turned the Western Wall into a place of controversy. The Torah scroll was taken and an attempt was made dishonorably to take it back by one of the members, the dishonor was prevented by the Western Wall security guards and the Torah was placed under guard."
The Women of the Wall responded in a statement to the press: "The security guards of the Rabbi of the Western Wall kidnapped and confiscated the Torah scroll of the Women of the Western Wall and even detained a woman praying who was on her way to the festive prayer of the Women of the Western Wall with the Torah as if she were a criminal. It is ridiculous and out of place that on the eve of the Torah Giving holiday (referring to the Jewish holiday Shavuot which commemorates the ascension of Mount Sinai by Moses and his return with the two tablets containing the 10 basic laws of Judaism), the Rabbi of the Western Wall desecrates a Torah and desecrates women's prayer and even bans it. The Torah (was brought to the wall) for the purpose of allowing women to read the Torah at the Western Wall. The time has come to free the Western Wall from the hands of the Rabbi of the Western Wall and bring equality to women in the holy place as well."
Andy Vermaut shares:Security guards seize Torah scroll from Women of the Wall Thank you. https://t.co/nK5uh5zeGH pic.twitter.com/FHGNFkZ0dc— Andy Vermaut (@AndyVermaut) May 21, 2023
According to their website “The Women of the Western Wall organization was founded on December 9, 1988, the first of Rosh Chodesh Tevet 559, by a group of 70 Jewish women, among them the chairman (since then to this day) Anat Hoffman, who requested to hold a Halachic-Orthodox women's prayer on Rosh Chodesh at the Western Wall. It was the first time that Jewish women read the Torah with the help of other women at the Western Wall, some of them wrapped in turbans. The incident provoked outrage among a small part of the other worshipers with the help of the women, and those women received curses from ultra-orthodox worshippers. Since then, the ‘Women of the Wall’ pray at the Western Wall every Hebrew Rosh Chodesh.”
3. "Women of the Wall (הכותל נשות in Hebrew) is a group of Jewish women from Israel and around the world who strive to achieve the right to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel."#womenofthewall pic.twitter.com/kQy2uevOnj— Conceptual Approaches to Global Feminist Religion (@GlobalFemRel23) May 5, 2023
It should be noted that Women are allowed to pray at the Western Wall, unlike what is suggested by the organization in the letter, however, in order to respect the majority of the worshippers, female Torah reading is seen as a violation of the compound’s rules despite many orthodox congregations allowing women to participate in some rites such as reading the weekly Torah portion. Depending on the synagogue, some Orthodox congregations allow for a separate women's prayer altogether, while more modern Orthodox ones allow the women to read in front of the entire congregation. Ultra-Orthodox Jews shun female involvement in any religious rite in synagogue due to what many consider 'impurity' laws.