Washington — The struggle over the right of women to pray as they wish at the Western Wall has reached the U.S. as American Jews on Monday kicked a nationwide series of protests over the emotive issue.
More than 100 protesters gathered Monday evening outside the Israeli embassy in Washington to show solidarity with the Women of the Wall, which holds monthly civil disobedience protests at the kotel over restrictions on women’s prayer.
WATCH the Forward’s video story about the Women of the Wall support rallies.
It is not every day that Jewish activists openly protest the Israeli embassy and organizers sought to make clear they did not seek a fight with the state of Israel.
“We’re actually not protesting Israel — we’re all supporters of Israel,” said Judith Gelman, chair of Ameinu, a liberal Jewish group, and one of the organizers of the Washington event. “What we’re fighting for … is the rights of Israelis to celebrate Judaism in a pluralistic way.”
“It isn’t really a protest, it is a show of solidarity with a specific group of people in Israel,” she added.
Participants included members of local synagogues, activists with the New Israel Fund and from other Jewish organizations that had taken a stand in support of women’s right to pray at the Wall.
On Tuesday, rallies were planned in support of the Women of the Wall in New York’s Union Square and outside the Israeli consulate in San Francisco.
The protests could be significantly more antagonistic in Jerusalem, where ultra-Orthodox residents have called for mass protests against this month’s prayer session.
Billboard signs posted in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem called on residents to “save” the wall from desecration by the women seeking to pray wearing a talit, the traditional Jewish prayer shawl.