A group of more than 20 Progressive rabbis and rabbinic students from the UK have protested to the Israeli ambassador about the treatment of women who want to pray at the Western Wall, describing police threats to arrest the women saying Kaddish as “shocking”.
The open letter to Ambassador Daniel Taub, sent in the week before Independence Day, is part of an international campaign for women to be allowed freedom of worship at the site in Jerusalem.
It acknowledged that the rabbi in charge of the Wall had given assurances that no women saying the mourners’ prayer would be arrested. But it went on: “The fact that such a warning can be issued by the police in a democracy without any condemnation by the legal and political powers of your country is shocking and fills us with sorrow.
"Meanwhile, women continue to be arrested for the ‘crime’ of wearing tallitot, and are forbidden to read from Sifrei Torah at this holy site.”
Two members of the Reform Zionist youth movement RSY-Netzer were among women arrested last year for praying in tallitot at the Wall.
The letter’s signatories include Leo Baeck College principal Rabbi Deborah Kahn-Harris, Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild of Wimbledon, Rabbi Miriam Berger of Finchley Reform and Rabbi Jonathan Romain of Maidenhead.
They said that “when we look at Israel, we see women segregated on buses, women’s images cut out of advertisements and women’s voices banned on public radio.
“We British Jews take our diversity for granted but, in Israel, diversity is not just unusual… many of these inequalities are enshrined in the law of the land”.
As leaders of Progressive Judaism in the diaspora, they asked to know: “How does the government plan to ensure the guarantee of full freedom of worship? How can a celebration of Israeli independence be complete when core values of its foundation appear to be completely neglected?”