Israeli Feminist prayer group ignites controversy at the Western Wall
On Tuesday morning, Leslie Sachs, one of the leaders for the Israeli Feminist prayer group “Women of the Wall” was arrested at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City for bringing a Torah Scroll to the holy site. According to Haaretz, Sachs’ Torah scroll violated a 2010 regulation that prevents anyone from bringing personal scrolls to the Western Wall. Though some 100 prayer scrolls are available at the Wall, only men may borrow them during their prayers. It’s a catch-22 situation for women like Sachs, who are expected to quietly pray at a distance from the men's section.
Women of the Wall was founded in 1988 and has become one of the most well known Jewish reform groups inside the state of Israel. Its primary goal is to secure equal rights for women at the Western Wall, where strict regulations segregate the sexes and limit how Jewish women can practice their faith. It has experienced much success, having greatly expanded the privileges of women at the Wall, but still holds regular prayers there that rouse controversy among conservatives and break with Orthodox traditions.
Though its members have been regularly arrested and detained since its founding in 1988, this most recent event comes during the backdrop of heightened tensions between Orthodox and reform movements in Israel, and an ongoing controversy surrounding a mixed-gender prayer site at the Western Wall. The creation of this egalitarian prayer site has lagged for years, and neither side of the debate sees it as an effective solution.
The Western Wall is not the only part of Jerusalem's Old City to experience religious strife. It is located directly behind the Al-Aqsa Mosque/Temple Mount complex, which has witnessed violent clashes in recent months between Palestinian Muslims and Israeli settlers.