1967 Liberators of the Wall Briefly "Protect" Women's Prayers Marking New Month
JERUSALEM - February 11, 2013 - For the first time in the 24 years that the Women of the Wall have welcomed the new month at Jerusalem's Western Wall, they were allowed to pray undisturbed.  Thanks to the presence of four IDF paratroopers who liberated the Kotel during the Six Day War on June 7, 1967, this morning's service, marking the new month of Adar, was completed peacefully.

Barbara Kavadias, Acting Executive Director of ARZA, who took part in the service (right of center in photo, in gold kippa and red shirt), reported that out of the hundreds of participants, there were 25 or 30 women wearing tallitot, and ten or so who also wore tefillin.  The women had to smuggle these items through security to keep them from being confiscated.
In addition to the IDF veterans, the women were joined by dozens of male supporters who prayed from the other side of the barrier separating them from the women's side.

After the completion of the service at the Kotel, Anat Hoffman (at center, front of the photo), Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center and Chair of Women of the Wall, embraced one of the Six Day War heroes and quoted the late commander of the paratroopers, Motta Gur, saying "The Temple mount is in our hands."  Afterwards, the paratroopers (which included Dr. Yitzhak Yifat (in the center of the famous David Rubinger photo of three battle-weary Israeli soldiers at the Wall after liberating it), who are known locally in Jerusalem as "the Liberators" of the Old City, departed, and the police moved in and made arrests.  

Barbara Kavadias, Acting Executive Director of ARZA, who was present at the service, said, "They peeled them away in such a way that we did not even see it happen. We discovered they were gone when we went to Robinson's Arch to read from the Torah."

Among those arrested were Anat Hoffman; Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman, sister of comedian Sarah Silverman, and her teenage daughter Hallel Abramowitz, who live in Jerusalem; Lior Nevo, an eight-months pregnant HUC rabbinical student; Lesley Sachs, Women of the Wall Director, and others.  They were taken to the Kisleh Police Station, near the Jaffa Gate in the Armenian Quarter.  The women followed them and reconvened outside the Police Station where the graphic designer who designed the ARZA logo, Deb Houben, helped lead services and read from the Torah.

When told of the arrests, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky responded angrily and called on Jerusalem's Police Chief Yossi Pariente to release the arrested women.  Last month, Sharansky was asked by Prime Minister Netanyahu to recommend a solution concerning prayer at the Kotel and he contacted Pariente last week, in advance of the new month, asking that they refrain from unnecessary interference and only assign woman officers to today's service.

For more information, see this article in The Times of Israel. To add your voice to the call for a Western Wall that is open to all Jews, sign ARZA's petition to the Israeli government.