JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli group of Orthodox feminists voiced its opposition to moving non-traditional women’s prayer to a new egalitarian area.
The Kolech-Religious Women’s Forum sent a letter this week to a special government committee headed by Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mendelblit saying that its members would not be willing to pray in a female minyan in the egalitarian section because as Orthodox women they will not pray with men.
The letter follows reports that the Women of the Wall organization, after months of negotiations, is close to approving an agreement with the Israeli government via the committee that would move the group’s monthly prayer service to the new egalitarian area.
The agreement includes issues relating to the area’s size, appearance, management, accessibility, budget and name. Taken together, the conditions mandate that the new section be treated as equal to the existing Western Wall plaza.
“The compromise being formulated in your discussions with Women of the Wall, according to which women’s prayer groups would be forced to leave the women’s section and move to Ezrat Yisrael (the egalitarian section), could deal a heavy blow to Orthodox women, and we will not be able to agree to this,” the letter said. “We see ourselves as part of Orthodoxy, and our prayers have already become part of the local custom as interpreted in Judge Sobel’s ruling.”
A Jerusalem District Court last year said women praying in a quorum with tallit and tefillin is not a violation of the local custom and therefore is permitted in the women’s section of the Western Wall. Women have not been arrested at the monthly prayer services since the ruling.
“Attempts to move us over to Ezrat Yisrael represent a blow to our religious identity,” the Kolech letter said. “Since we observe halacha strictly and belong to the Orthodox Jewish stream, we are not willing to forfeit our right to pray as we see fit in the women’s section of the Western Wall.”
The Kolech group, which has been a strong supporter of Women of the Wall, has asked for a meeting with Mendelblit and his committee in order to explain their stance.