Rosh Hodesh Elul
Former Jerusalem city councilwoman Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of Women of the Wall, waits with our Torah scroll outside the Western Wall plaza. A month ago, Anat was barred from entering the plaza for thirty days... for the crime of carrying a Torah scroll away from the women’s section toward Robinson’s Arch, where Women of the Wall is permitted to hold its Torah service.
When we were at Robinson’s Arch, there were two bar-mitzvah services in progress. Interestingly enough, neither one took place on the wooden platforms that had been built for Women of the Wall. Our group stayed above, where there was enough room for everyone.
Here is one group:
Here is the other:
I know of quite a few religious and traditional families who chose to hold their bar- or bat-mitzvah services at Robinson’s Arch. I don’t blame them. They simply do not want to be forced to adhere to the increasingly strict regulations at the Western Wall plaza. The women do not want to have to stand on chairs and lean over a fence – compromising their own physical safety – in order to watch their sons read Torah.
The Western Wall is not what it was when I was first there in 1983. It is no longer a national site, no longer welcoming, particularly for women, who now have a fraction of the space that we once had, and highly restricted indoor access to the Kotel.