Lesley Sachs, director of the provocative Reform group Women of the Wall (WoW), was detained for investigation by Jerusalem district police on Tuesday over suspicions of smuggling a Torah scroll into the women’s section of the Kotel (Western Wall) Plaza.
Kotel Chief Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz himself complained to the police and reported that WoW had smuggled in a Torah scroll in breach of the site’s regulations – and in breach of WoW’s agreements made with the Attorney General.
“As the one responsible for the sanctity of the Western Wall I take upon myself bli neder (without a vow – ed.) to fast over the debasement of the Torah scroll,” said Rabbi Rabinowitz.
The smuggling on Rosh Chodesh Sivan comes despite the fact that the government recently agreed to build a second Reform prayer space at the Kotel, after previously establishing the Ezrat Yisrael prayer space back in 2013 that was also meant for prayer practices that are not consistent with Jewish tradition and law.
During the negotiations over the establishment of the second Reform prayer space, which experts warn will harm the archaeological finds at the ancient site, it was agreed between WoW and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that the group would stop smuggling in Torah scrolls and causing provocations at the Kotel Plaza.
WoW has long smuggled Torah scrolls into the site. In January 2014 the group denied they tried to smuggle a Torah scroll into the Kotel Plaza, but in October of the same year they proudly posted pictures online of a miniature Torah scroll they smuggled in, read from and danced with.
Back in March of this year they once against smuggled a Torah scroll into the women’s section of the Kotel Plaza, breaking their promises to the Attorney General regarding the new Reform prayer space.
Regarding the group’s goals, back in July 2013 WoW head Anat Hoffman wrote an article on the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism website entitled “support our rally to end the chief rabbinate,” in which she called “to throw out the whole rabbinate.”
The government’s recent decision on the new Reform prayer space has raised concerns as it removes an area in the southern part of the Kotel from the authority of the rabbinate, transferring it to the control of the Prime Minister’s Office. Such a move is a breach of the status quo, by which the rabbinate maintains authority over holy sites.