Prayer call by women of the wall

Israel’s Women of the Wall organisation has said it will launch a major demonstration to try to break a 20-year-old law banning women from praying directly in front of the Western Wall.

The organisation’s chair, Anat Hoffman, told an audience of New Israel Fund supporters in London this week: “We will be there again at the Wall on December 18, believing that the Wall is the holiest place for Jews, believing it should be open to all.”

Last week a woman was arrested and then released after a group of 40 women, wearing tallitot and kippot read from the Torah.

Ms Hoffman received an award for representing NiF’s achievements in the fields of human rights and religious pluralism.

A second award went to Helmi Kittani, director of the Centre for Jewish-Arab Economic Development, for his work with Israel’s Arab citizens on behalf of NiF.

The charity was praised by Foreign Secretary David Miliband in a filmed message to the dinner. He said: “Human rights, civil, social, economic and political rights are at the heart not just of formal legal obligations that the UK has, they are also at the heart of our foreign policy, at the heart of the campaigns that we sponsor, the lobbying we do and the policy that we support.

“I think it’s very important to commend the work of the New Israel Fund. Since 1979 it has touched many aspects of Israeli life and set a fine example that should inform the work of non-governmental organisations,” he added.

Last updated: 4:56pm, December 3 2009