The Reform-led Women of the Wall came under a fresh round of harsh criticism for expressing disdain for sacred Jewish objects today, attempting to sneak a sefer Torah past police in a duffel bag. Police were shocked to discover the Sefer Torah during a routine check of WOW members as they entered the Kosel Plaza.
In an interview with Hamodia, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rav of the Kosel area, confirmed the story.
“They were stopped,” he said. “We, baruch Hashem, have enough sifrei Torah at the Kosel; no one is permitted to bring their own sefer Torah.
“I have much agmas nefesh and pain over the actions of this group. They seek to make provocations, to harm the sanctity of the Kosel, and to hurt [the feelings of] the regular mispallelim of the Kosel,” Rabbi Rabinowitz declared.
“During the recent snowstorm, we saw the mesirus nefesh of the regular mispallelim of the Kosel; they walked here in the snow, in the bitter cold, just so that the Kosel is not left alone and the tefillos continue,” he added.
“We are extremely disappointed that WOW would misuse a holy Torah scroll in this way,” commented Ronit Peskin, Director of Women For the Wall, a grassroots organization committed to preserving the consensus around the Kosel and maintaining the sanctity of the site. “This is a desecration of something sacred to the entire Jewish nation.”
Leah Aharoni, co-founder of Women For the Wall, explained, “WOW’s Chairperson, Anat Hoffman, has said that even the Wall itself has no special sanctity to her, but is simply a place of opportunity. Today, they have taken it a step further, expressing disdain for sacred Jewish objects, the police, and Israeli civil law in one fell swoop.”
Bringing a private sefer Torah into the Kosel Plaza is against police regulations, in order to prevent theft of the Torah scrolls provided to the public at the site. Another group hoping to bring a family Torah scroll to a bar mitzvah was also denied entry this morning; they, however, did not attempt to circumvent regulation or provoke arrest by bringing the Torah in a bag without proper respect.
Peskin decried the actions of WOW, saying that the group “insists upon disturbing traditional practices at the site commissioned for traditional Jewish prayer, and all of us who wish to pray quietly in that fashion. Today, besides their loud singing and general disturbance, they tried to provoke arrest while treating a Torah scroll like hand luggage. How can they claim to be fighting for the rights of women, when they trample the rights of so many more women to pray undisturbed?”