Attorney General Nixes Female ‘Priestly Blessing’ At Kotel

Twice a year, during the Pesach and Sukkot holidays, tens of thousands of Jews gather in the Old City of Jerusalem for the mass Birkat Kohanim (“Priestly Blessing”) ceremony at the Kotel.

This year, however, the radical feminist group “Women of the Wall”, planned to crash the ceremony with a “Birkat Kohanot” ritual alongside the traditional event.

In Judaism, Kohanim, the descendants of the priestly caste who maintained the Temple in Jerusalem, perform a ritual blessing of the congregation each day during morning prayers. The daughters of Kohanim do not perform the ritual blessing.

The planned Women of the Wall event sparked anger among organizers of the Birkat Kohanim ceremony, the Rabbi of the Kotel Shmuel Rabinovitch, and the religious community at large.

A mass prayer rally of Orthodox women was planned for Sunday to protest the Women of the Wall event.

On Thursday, however, Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit nixed the alternative ceremony, ruling that no tradition for Birkat Kohanot exists, and is thus counter to the traditions of the venue.

The Attorney General’s office said that Mandelblit earlier had held “a hearing on the issue, with representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Religious Ministry, the Rabbi of the Kotel, and officials from the Justice Ministry”.

“During the meeting the Rabbi of the Kotel and the Religious Ministry presented their positions, arguing that the ‘Birkat Kohanot’ ceremony was not in keeping with the traditions established at the Kotel.”

The Attorney General’s ruling noted that ‘Birkat Kohanot’ was not a recognized Jewish tradition, and that such an event had never been held at the Kotel in the past.

1 reply
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    Women of the Wall (WoW) plan to hold morning Passover prayers at the women’s section of the Kotel (Western Wall) on Sunday.

    Women of the Wall chairperson Anat Hoffman on Thursday responded to the General Attorney’s decision to nix the planned female “Priestess Blessing” at the Kotel.

    “This is an unhappy decision that submits to political pressure of an extremist minority group whose sole aim is to sabotage gender equality at the Western Wall and prevent women from having the right of prayer and worship,” said Hoffman, whose small organization has long caused provocations at the Kotel by publicly flaunting Jewish tradition.

    “It is surprising that at this time, when there is such a need of prayer and blessing for people of Israel, the General Attorney supports delegitimization of women’s prayer, whose only wish is to bless and be blessed,” said Hoffman.

    She then noted that police will work to stop WoW’s planned event at the Kotel so as to avoid tensions and potential clashes.

    “Regretfully, following his decision, the Jerusalem police traffic department has decided to follow suit and informed us that the police will prevent the buses, bringing women from all over the country, from approaching the Old City gates. This will make it even harder for women to come and pray at the Kotel.”

    Attorney Riki Shapira, a Women of the Wall board member, said the group “disagree with the Attorney General’s jurisdiction since the holidays prayers of Shacharit (morning prayers) and Mussaf (additional holiday prayers) include in them the Priestly Blessings, and these prayers are part of the ‘local custom’ as stated by the ruling of Judge Sobel.”

    “It is infuriating that the decision was given to us at the last moment, without the benefit of hearing our side before making it, as required by Israel’s Administrative Law. Also, the decision was made at such a time that we cannot appeal it to the Supreme Court.”

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