Rosh Chodesh Sivan at the Kotel: Receiving the Torah

For the first time in nearly 25 years of attempting to pray aloud, according to their own custom (in tallit and tefillin), and to read Torah in public — Nashot HaKotel/Women of the Wall held a historic Rosh Chodesh Sivan service this morning at the Kotel (the Western Wall). More than 400 women and a bat mitzvah (who was carried on someone’s shoulders, as is traditional for bar mitzvahs at the Kotel).

Bat Mitzvah being carried on shoulders at the Kotel

A beautiful photo album has been posted on their Facebook page, and I imagine that many photos will be available on the photo page of their website in coming days.  In the meantime, I have included some of the Facebook photos in this post.

Police facing out, away from Nashot HaKotel 2013.05.10 946879_10151595418190673_1188395722_nFor the first time in those nearly 25 years, the police are facing OUT, watching the behavior of hecklers, not facing in, ready to arrest women who “disturb the peace” by praying according to their own custom. Notice the difference between the behavior of some of the Orthodox young men, who had been encouraged to come and behave badly (and did), and the large crowd of Orthodox young women who were also released from school and encouraged to go. You will see them in skirts and mostly white blouses … and they are watching, not jeering, not heckling. In recent months many Orthodox Israeli women have become supporters of Women at the Wall.  (But there’s still plenty of controversy and disapproval – here is a right-wing analysis of the day’s events, and an Op-Ed from the same site.)Police facing young Haredi women 2013.05.10 931421_10151595418365673_2123523599_n

The service was held entirely in the Women’s Section of the Kotel. This is also a first. For about the last 10 years, the prayer portion of the service was held in the Women’s Section and then the women’s prayer group walked a few hundred feet south, to the section of the wall known as Robinson’s Arch, to read Torah. Not this morning.Young Haredi man behaving badly at the Kotel 2013.05.10 934758_10151595420050673_556993092_n

Last month two Jerusalem judges ruled in quick succession that Women of the Wall are not disturbing the peace by attempting to pray according to their own custom. The second judge (after the Jerusalem police appealed the first ruling) went farther: He said that the national law which requires that prayer services at holy sites be conducted according to “local custom” is not to be interpreted to mean “ultra-Orthodox custom,” but rather “national custom” in a pluralistic manner.

And so the stage was set. שהחינו וקימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה! You overflow with blessing, our Eternal God, Almighty over time and space: For giving us life, for sustaining us in life, and for bringing us to this very moment!Beautifully happy face (member of Knesset I think) at Kotel 2013.05.10 249106_10151595421260673_1143119051_n