Women of the Wall: Israeli Patriots

WOW leaders with 1967 IDF Paratroopers who liberated the Kotel
WOW leaders with 1967 IDF Paratroopers who liberated the Kotel

The past week’s McCarthy-esque crusade against Women of the Wall, accusing the organization as having a hidden, “anti-Israel” agenda, is no more than a desperate attempt to besmirch our loyalty to the state of Israel and the Jewish people. The Israeli government and the world Jewish community are both currently actively engaged and cooperating with Women of the Wall in creating equality for women at the Western Wall (Kotel). The guilt-by-association plea, to suggest that we intend to harm the state because of leaders’ affiliation with certain organizations, is worthy of Joe McCarthy at his most evil and is an insult to the intelligence of Women of the Wall supporters.

The libelous allegations have nothing to do with Women of the Wall. Women of the Wall cannot be anti-Israel- not only because we are a non-partisan, registered Israeli NGO and we end each monthly prayer at the Kotel with Israel’s National Anthem, Hatikvah (watch the video here).

We cannot be anti-Israel because in our diversity and our pluralism we ARE Israel. We are left and right and center. We are grandmothers, mothers, daughters and granddaughters. We are religious and traditional on many levels but we also have many secular supporters. We pay taxes; we serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).  We are sabras (born in Israel) and olim (moved to live in Israel from abroad). We are Zionists, though we probably each have our own definition of what it means to believe in a just Jewish state.

Our organization’s leadership is being accused of, “possess[ing] links to anti-Israel groups”. The groups in question- eight out of hundreds our leaders are associated with- were hand selected and examined by blogger Rachel Avraham, whose internet presence implies that she herself has political biases and associations which call into question her ability to report honestly on this subject. She writes that these groups are “outwardly presented as human rights groups” (outwardly, meaning the groups’ mission statements and goals approved by the Israeli registrar for NGOs). She follows this fact with a series of completely baseless opinions about Women of the Wall such as, “they seek to portray Israel as a fundamentalist anti-feminist country” and are “pushing many American Jews away from Israel” and the preposterous lie that WOW has “threatened” journalists.

Quite the opposite is true: Women of the Wall’s struggle proves that Israel is a great democracy that works, with a just court system that affirms women’s right to pray at the Kotel. Women of the Wall has made the Kotel accessible to millions of Diaspora Jews who previously did not feel welcome there, due to the discriminatory rule of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz (not the Israeli Government).

This accusation personally attacks Women of the Wall’s leaders. Any journalist doing their due diligence research on the organization would have found out the following about the Women of the Wall leadership:

Tammy Gottleib was born in Israel, served in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) in a combat unit and serves more yearly reserves duty each year than most Israeli men I know.

Avigail Altman grew up in Jerusalem’s Old City, praying each Shabbat at the Kotel and is an active member of Kolech, Religious Women’s Forum, and Shira Hadasha.

Ella Kanner was born in Tel Aviv, as were her parents. She served in the IDF as an educational instructor and is a mother of 6. All of her children studied in the Religious Zionist educational system and served in the army or national service.

Rachel Cohen Yeshurun made aliyah from Canada with her family. She is an active animal rights advocate and was the first parent in line to sign her son up for the Democratic School in Jerusalem.

Anat Hoffman was born in Israel, represented Israel as a champion swimmer and served as an makit in the IDF.

Bonnie Ras was born in New York and made aliyah in 2012. She is a life-long Zionist and has worked in Jewish education and Jewish community her entire adult life.

Peggy Cidor was born in Tunisia and served in the IDF, before becoming a well-respected journalist in Israel.

Leora Bechor made aliyah and as a lawyer she has championed the rights of individuals, minorities in Israel, as well as clerking in the National Office of the Public Defender and the Department of International Affair in the Ministry of Justice.

Lesley Sachs served in the IDF and sits on the prestigious Board of Directors of the Jewish National Fund, as well as the World Zionist Organization.

Batya Kallus, whose good name has been besmirched in the media this past week, is a philanthropic advisor for foundations which support many projects in Israeli civil society (all legal, registered Israeli NGOs), with a special focus on civil rights, social justice, democracy and improving educational and economic opportunities for the disadvantaged in Israel.

I am Shira Pruce. Before making aliyah at the age of 22, I traveled the US and Canada helping students combat anti-Israel activity on college campuses and founded the Zionist campus movement, Israel Inspires.

We are Women of the Wall and we are Israeli patriots.

WOW leaders with 1967 IDF Paratroopers who liberated the Kotel
WOW leaders with 1967 IDF Paratroopers who liberated the Kotel
About the Author
Shira Pruce is an activist and communications professional. After living in Israel for 13 years, she has recently moved back to New Jersey. She is former director of public relations for Women of the Wall, and has advanced the work of MASLAN- the Negev’s Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Support Center and the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, to name just a few. She received her BA in Women and Gender Studies at Douglass College, Rutgers University.
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