This Passover, Women of the Wall plans to hold a historic prayer service featuring the first ever priestly blessing performed by women at the Western Wall. This follows the recent government decision to open a new egalitarian plaza at the Western Wall, and the Supreme Court’s ruling that Israeli mikvahs should be open to people undergoing Reform and Conservative conversions.
Over the last few weeks, efforts like these to expand religious freedom have had to face new hurdles. Following pressure from ultra-Orthodox parties regarding the Western Wall compromise, Prime Minister Netanyahu said “some difficulties have arisen” and that new recommendations will be presented within 60 days. Executive Director of NIF grantee the Masorti Movement, Yizhar Hess, said in response: “Not one of us would think that the Israeli government will back down from an historic compromise plan, that the sides reached after a long and intensive negotiation, and to which the prime minister committed himself at innumerable forums and gatherings.”
Meanwhile, following the Supreme Court ruling, a new bill that would reinstate the ban on Conservative and Reform Jews from using publicly funded ritual baths has passed its first Knesset reading. MK Zehava Galon (Meretz) said, “You introduced a law in order to circumvent the Supreme Court, you don’t care about mikvahs, what interests you is gaining a foothold. You’re waging a thug-like, extortionate fight against ‘those people’, who have a name – Reform and Conservative. Who gave you the right to monopolize Judaism?”
These developments make Women of the Wall’s historic prayer service even more important, in order to demonstrate the strength of those who support religious freedom in Israel. The event will be held on Sunday April 24 at 8:45 in the Kotel’s women’s section. If you’re in Jerusalem for Passover, don’t miss out!