Below is a letter Anat Hoffman sent me this morning updating me on an action during the intermediate days of Pesach, on April 24, that Women of the Wall is planning in Jerusalem at the Kotel (Western Wall).
This action is a follow-up to the historic decision taken by the government of Israel, led by PM Netanyahu and coordinated by Natan Sharansky several months ago, that will establish a new egalitarian prayer space in the Southern Kotel Plaza. Women of the Wall is gathering hundreds of women descended from the priestly class (Kohanut) to bless the community at the Kotel.
The ultra-Orthodox political parties United Torah Judaism and Shas, along with the “Chief Rabbi of the Wall,” are demanding that this agreement not be implemented on threat of withdrawal from the government coalition and the collapse of the government that consists of only 61 votes. PM Netanyahu is now trying to manage his anti-democratic coalition partners by promising to take a second look at the agreement that would surely doom its future. This was a negotiated compromise between the parties that included the Chief Rabbi at the Wall. Every detail was negotiated. It was a compromise agreement. To open it up again means that the agreement will fail. Doing this has much larger implications for the state of democracy and religious pluralism in Israel. Surely, the Prime Minister knows this – but maintaining power seems to be more important to him than the honor of his word to the non-Orthodox movements in Israel and worldwide and the cause of democracy and equal rights for all religious streams of Judaism in the Jewish state.
Anat Hoffman, chair of the Women of the Wall and the Executive Director of the Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Center, has been a lightning rod on this issue for more than 27 years in her role as a founding member of WOW and now as its chair.
Anat had asked me to make contact with my cousin, Susan Bay Nimoy, to support this effort financially, which Susan did without hesitation and with full heart. She did so in memory of Leonard, who would have supported this effort with an equally full heart. Anat thought of them as supporters because Leonard made the priestly sign world famous in the character of Spock. When developing the greeting in his role, he remembered the blessing of the priests when he attended synagogue as a young boy with his grandfather in South Boston.
The article from Haaretz below notes:
“Funding [has been] provided by the Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy estate [and] was meant to help Women of the Wall advertise the event as well as bus in women from around the country so that they can attend at no cost.”
Here is Anat’s letter (see the two articles in Haaretz):
Shalom, John, dear friend,
It was a challenging week for Women of the Wall. Kol Yisrael, the Israeli public radio body, determined that it would not play our paid voice ads for the Birkat Kohanot. Please click this link to an article in the Forward so you can hear how simply beautiful it is: http://forward.com/video/338622/israel-public-radio-rejects-women-of-the-wall-ad/?attribution=home-video-1. We petitioned to force them to play the ads and will appeal the decision on Sunday – all the way to the [Israeli] Supreme Court.
Next, Haaretz gave us plenty of press. One article is Public Radio Refuses to Broadcast ‘Controversial’ Women of the Wall Ad and the other is Western Wall Rabbi Attempting to Prevent ‘Women’s Priestly Blessing’ During Passover. Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, has even gone so far as to call Women of the Wall “Satan Incarnate.” He said that we need to be committed to an asylum, YET he went on – for the first time – to devote his whole sermon on Pesach to the importance of women in Judaism.
Here are the links to the articles:
But, we keep persevering. The number of participants continues to grow, and we are confident that we will fill the Kotel plaza on April 24.