Last November, Israeli authorities arrested medical student and Women of the Wall (WOW) member Nofrat Frenkel for wearing a prayer shawl and holding a Torah at the Western Wall (Kotel), Judaism's most holy site. The first time a female worshiper has been arrested there, the event has prompted protests from many sides in an already tense debate in the Jewish community.
Founded in 1988, WOW believes devout Jewish women have the right to gather at the Kotel to pray, read the Torah, and wear religious clothing such as prayer shawls. Torah requires certain practices for men but does not prohibit women from those practices. Despite WOW's appeals to the Israeli government over the past two decades, its laws call for fining or jailing women who partake in these activities at the Kotel, which is segregated by sex.
WOW meets every month for Rosh Hodesh at the Kotel, as well as for other select holidays. Rosh Hodesh is a celebration of the new moon and is traditionally viewed as a women's holiday. At WOW's December meeting, leader Anat Hoffman said the women wore scarf-like prayer shawls under their coats rather than traditional prayer shawls so that the garments wouldn't upset other worshipers. The New York Times, meanwhile, reported that the women went wearing prayer shawls and carrying scrolls in protest of Frenkel's arrest, but that rain caused them to cover both items.
WOW members have met strong opposition, particularly from Orthodox Jews, for their activities. Ultra-Orthodox Jews, also known as Haredi, which means "those who fear God," believe the women are trying to disrupt Jewish traditions ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more