Massive Prayer Rally at the Kotel Today- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I have very mixed emotions about today’s massive tfilla rally at the kotel today. There are certain things that make me really happy about it, and there are certain things that sadden me greatly, and other things that make me mad. I’ll try do address them all… It’s long, but times of Israel only allows one post a day and I feel it is imperative to address them all as soon as possible.

The Good

First off, I wanted to say that when we called out for people to come pray at the Kotel today, what we asked was that people come to daven limaan achdus Am Yisrael, for the sake of unity of am Yisrael, and I really meant that. That was one big goal. Women of the Wall have caused such infighting in the Jewish nation, so we wanted to daven that Hashem helps us bring more unity. And while as a Jewish nation we’re still very fragmented, the fact that we had dati leumi rabbanim and chareidi rabbanim from across the spectrum coming out in support of tfilla rally gave me hope. That maybe, maybe, at least among religious Jews there can be some unity, even if the whole Jewish nation isn’t ready for that yet.

And in that sense, we were successful. People from all walks of religiosity came to the Kotel today and prayed for achdus. The media reporting is so biased that they conveniently left out the dati leumi and secular and traditional women who came out at the initiation of Women For the Wall to pray for unity. We bused in people from dati leumi communities, dati leumi schools sent girls. But the media conveniently chose to make this a “Chareidi vs WoW” thing, when it really wasn’t.

Second of all, our goal was to show, by sheer numbers, to the Israeli government, and secondly, to the press, that the Women of the Wall do NOT have the support they think they do in Israel, that the thousands of fans they have on Facebook are nearly all in the US, that despite repeated calls for mass numbers to show up, they managed to get only dozens of supporters there… whereas the police are saying that there were thousands (I’ve heard numbers from 8,000-15,000, don’t know the actual number) other people there, NOT with the Women of the Wall. And this was despite Women For the Wall only existing for less than three/ weeks, working with askonim to try to make this happen. Imagine if we were working on getting support for this cause for 25 years like WoW has, and things would have been even more skewed to our side.

The purpose of having these sheer numbers was to tell the government that what a democracy means is that the majority should play a bigger roll in what happens somewhere, that a small minority shouldn’t dictate to the majority what should happen. And that the government, when making decisions about what will happen at the Kotel, what rules will be put into effect, needs to not just meet with the small and insignificant Women of the Wall when deciding what to do, but also take the feelings of the much larger other side into consideration.

And we were told by people in politics that what we did was VERY good, that it really helped our cause, and that our side would be given more consideration when drafting the new laws, specifically because of what happened today.

And it was really amazing being together with so many women davening, on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, Ke’ish echad bilev echad, for the sake of Hashem and the Torah, very reminiscent of what happened over 3500 years ago, when Jews stood at Har Sinai, and accepted the Torah, ke’ish echad bilev echad.

And that is why I say that for the most part today was a success. Overall a success. Because we accomplished our two main goals.

When we approached the Chareidi gedolim and told them what we want to do on Rosh Chodesh, they backed us and called for thousands to come. And they added something that wasn’t my original intention. “Fill up the space so that WoW can’t get in.”

Kol Hakavod to the Gedolim, but that really wasn’t my intention, nor was it the intention of the other W4W founders. It was an inevitable byproduct of having massive amounts of women getting there this morning, but that’s just what happens when there are masses of women. Many of the women who came couldn’t either reach the Kotel. Its not something that WoW can really complain about, unless they will complain about the other women who couldn’t either… And expecting the police to “split the sea” of women so that WoW should be able to go to the Kotel? Why? Why should they get special treatment? Why would they be more deserving to pray at the wall itself than any other woman who came and couldn’t either reach the Kotel?

The Bad

And speaking of Gedolim… People accuse chareidim of being misogynistic and male dominated… And yet, because of myself, a woman, and Leah Aharoni, a woman, and another woman who works behind the scenes at Women For the Wall, the chareidi rabbanim sent out the masses to the Kotel today. In other words, the Chareidi RABBIS took advice from 3 women, 2 dati leumi, and 1 chareidi-ish! Is that misogyny and male dominance?

If there is any misogyny going on, it’s ignoring the women who led the way in making the rally happen. When I approached Judy Maltz, from Haaretz, because I wanted to tell her about why I initiated this prayer rally today, she laughed in my face and said “You initiated it? No! The Chareidi rabbis did!” I told her that I and my group approached the Chareidi rabbis in the past few weeks and that is why specifically they called out for everyone to come out today, and she looks me in my face and says “Yea right. You are completely delusional and out of your mind.” So I said to her “I have proof. This Rabbi, Rabbi Lerner, in charge of the Young Israel of America, has been in Israel the last week, and he is working for us, and he approached these Rabbonim about organizing this.” She pretty much just rolled her eyes, and ignored us.

So, Judy Maltz, thinks I’m delusional because I state the truth that this was an initiative of W4W? That certainly seems like misogyny to me. Because I mean, seriously, as if women could pull this off? Or the chareidi Rabbis who called out the masses on the advice of WOMEN?

And speaking of Chareidi rabbis, I think it is pathetic that the media all conveniently ignored the large amounts of Dati Leumi people there. We had the backing of the dati leumi gedolim and roshei yeshivot. Dati leumi people sent busloads of girls. And two of the organizers of this even were Dati Leumi. They just lumped everyone together, making this an “ultra orthodox” thing, instead of the true facts- that there were religious people there from across the spectrum. As well as chiloni and masorti people, who don’t either support WoW!

And the Ugly

Now, as for the thing that really upset me about today. There was a massive chillul Hashem, that made people ignore the massive kiddush Hashem that we made, of having thousands of women at the kotel, praying peacefully, for a specific cause.

What exactly was this chillul Hashem?

Well, if you’ve read the news at ALL, that’s probably all you heard about. Chareidi guys being nasty and violent towards the Women of the Wall.

Towards me too, might I add.

From when the Women of the Wall (or at least Anat Hoffman) arrived there, a group of Chareidi guys started jeering and leering at them. I walked up to them and started yelling at them to go daven, that they were making a chillul Hashem.  I told them that the gedolei hador said they were to leave the women alone, and go away and just daven. The guys laughed in my face and said “We don’t need to listen to you!” and then continued. I lost my voice screaming at them to tell them to go away, and  wished I had a microphone or a bullhorn, but they’re illegal there and the police refused to make such an announcement or let me make one with their microphone.

Rabbis working with W4W tried to quell the crowd, tried to do damage control, tried to reason with these guys and get them to act like mentschen and stop with the chillul Hashem that they were making, but they weren’t open to reason, and they weren’t interested in listening to the gedolim.

There was lots of immaturity that went on. There were guys making faces, guys standing around blowing whistles, guys singing songs mocking the Women of the Wall. Wrong, especially since they refused to listen to the gedolim and not harass.

But there was also violence and disgustingness.

I was standing in the ring protected by the police, together with Women of the Wall, their supporters, Women FOR the Wall heads and askonim, The Rav of the Kotel, and a whole bunch of media. (Seriously, altogether in there, counting all of us, there were less than 200 people there. WoW inflating their numbers to say they had 500 people there is just ridiculous. There were nearly more media people than there were WoW members and supporters.

I got sewage or spit or something thrown onto me by chareidi guys at least 3 times. I mean, it wasn’t directed at me, but at everyone there, and I got covered in it.

A few times, chareidi guys tried to storm the barrier to try hurt some members of the Women of the Wall. I don’t know how many times they actually attempted, but I can tell you about one incident I witnessed. The police were keeping all of us inside the barricade away from the barricade, wouldn’t let us approach. But one woman broke through the police line, waved her tallis at the chareidi guys, taunting them, they rushed at her, the police pushed her back and she fell down to the ground. Were the guys at fault there? Absolutely! Was the lady at fault? Absolutely. What exactly would be the purpose to taunt? What was she hoping to accomplish, other than being able to tell people “I was attacked by chareidi thugs at the kotel today”?

Supposedly there were some incidents of chair throwing, but I was in the middle of the circle the whole time and didn’t see it even once.

As chareidi guys were getting more and more bothersome, the police did something REALLY smart. They surrounded the barricade by a thick line of women and girls, to protect the Women of the Wall.

Poof- no more violence. So the women who came to daven at the Kotel ended up protecting the women they came to protest.

Now about those chareidi thugs. Something that needs addressing.

First off, that the ratio of people at the kotel was about 8:1 women vs men. The media conveniently forget to mention the mass amounts of women who were there and were not violent. They would rather focus on the “juicy details”- the terrible chareidi guys- when in fact, there were about maybe 50-75 chareidi guys causing trouble, and all the rest of the chareidi guys there were davening peacefully on the men’s side.

Second of all, those thugs weren’t W4W supporters. Women For the Wall is an initiative of Women who tried to bring Women to the Kotel this Rosh Chodesh. The WOMEN at the Kotel, therefore, were there because of us. Not the guys! We specifically did not involve guys because this is an issue for WOMEN to deal with amongst themselves. And because guys often have too much testosterone causing them to act aggressively, and we didn’t want any aggression today!

Moreover, the gedolim came out VERY clearly and said that everything needs to be done with dignity and respect, and absolutely no violence. That these thugs clearly ignored the directives of the gedolim of Chareidi Jewry just proves that they are NOT the representatives of Chareidi society, and the fact that there were many more Chareidi guys either uninvolved or trying to get them to stop what they were doing, albeit unsuccessfully, shows that they do not have the support of the Chareidi world!

Can we at Women For the Wall take credit for what these guys did? Are we somewhat responsible?

Every single Rosh Chodesh the same thing happens, the same chareidi guys harass WoW members. The only thing that changed this time on that sense is that we TRIED to get them to stop. We had so many guys trying to calm them down, they ignored them, they shoved them aside. They were not our supporters! We were fighting against them just as much!!!

Kiddush Hashem?

I tried, personally, to make a kiddush Hashem today. My message to the media was one saying that while we support the Women of the Wall’s quest to connect to God, we request that they respect the Kotel for being the holiest place in the Jewish world today, and to respect the religious rules there that were made because it is such a holy place. And that the same way they would follow the rules in the Vatican or Al Aqsa mosque if they went there, they should follow the rules made at the Kotel to attempt to keep the place holy, because without rules, it would be a hefker place and anarchy isn’t good.

I said that WoW are trying to use the Kotel as a wedge to advance their political goals, and while I don’t support those goals, I support their right to be able to fight for those goals, just the Kotel is not the right place, as it should be a place of prayer and unity, not a place to address political goals.

I tried to reach out to the Women of the Wall members. Some were nice in response, some not.

Anat Hoffman, for one, I spoke to her and thanked her for coming to the Kotel to pray for unity. She thanked me as well. I said I would love to meet with you with other members of WoW and W4W and try to work out things that would be mutually satisfactory to both sides. She agreed to, after she comes back from the US.

I introduced myself to a few members of WoW whose names I don’t know, told them “I love you, fellow Jewish sister, even if I don’t support your cause” and got smiles back.

I tried to introduce myself to Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, said “Nice to finally meet you” and she stalked off without saying a word. Oh well. At least I tried.

There was a man supporter of WoW and he lost his son and I did my best to try to help him find his son. He seemed appreciative.

I met the PR director of WoW and she threatened me with a lawsuit for “stealing content off her website”- I asked her which content I stole- and she said “The lawyer will let you know.” Uhm yea, I have not stolen any content from any website- at most I pulled a quote or more, and credited it to them- perfectly legal. Oh, and this was just after she was finished telling Judy Maltz how she is so glad WoW inspired so many women to come out to pray on Rosh Chodesh. Wow. Way to spin this story around…

I met Miri Regev, the Likud MK, and she and I talked for a bit, and she said she supports WoW’s right to pray as they wish… in Robinson’s Arch. Exactly my sentiments.

I met a lot of media people, but so far I don’t think they quoted me at all or mentioned our group, other than one quote I saw from Leah Aharoni. I guess the stupid chareidi thugs were more interesting for them to write about than a moderate but disagreeing group like W4W, even if we managed to organize thousands of women to come to the Kotel today. I wonder how many of them didn’t believe that it is possible for Orthodox women to do such a thing, and that’s why they didn’t mention me/us so far?

As for What is Next:

We’ll probably do this again next rosh chodesh. The women were a success, the guys not. We’re therefore interested in going to the gedolim, asking them to come out with a psak that women should come, but guys absolutely have to stay home, and if any of them harass or bother even ONE member of WoW, they’ll be expelled from yeshiva or kollel…

And we’re really hoping to meet both with Bennet and Sharansky to try to let our voice be heard, the voice of the thousands of women who packed into the Kotel today to say that it is important to us that the Kotel is run by strict religious rules.

So overall, was it a success?

I would say so.

But there certainly were things that can be fixed for next time, and we’ll try our best to do that.

About the Author
Adara Peskin is a non conformist chareidi feminist single mother of 4 living in Kochav Yaakov, activist for mental health awareness, blogger at about living a life with mindful spending, and foraging instructor, attempting to make a kiddush Hashem every day via her interactions with others.
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