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February 11: Veterans of the Six-Day War Defend the Women at the Wall
Four veterans of the Six-Day War who fought their way into the Old City of Jerusalem on June 7, 1967 stood watch over women praying in prayer shawls at the Western Wall on this date in 2013 and enabled them to complete their service, undisturbed, for the first time in twenty-four years. “We came today to identify with them,” said Dr. Yitzhak Yifat, a member of the 55th Paratroop who was made famous by David Rubinger’s photo of him as a young soldier gazing up at the Western Wall after helping to conquer the Old City (at right). “The Kotel belongs to everyone and not just one segment of the population.” Women are not allowed to wear religious garb (besides yarmulkes) or to read from the Torah at the Wall, and have frequently been arrested for behavior “not in accordance with the custom of the holy site and which offends the sensitivities of the worshipers at the place,” according to the language of the Israeli law. Indeed, ten of the women who were accompanied by the veterans were arrested at the conclusion of their service, after the paratroopers had left. “The women’s campaign to be allowed to hold a prayer service at the Kotel began in December 1988,” notes Mitch Ginsburg in the Times of Israel. “Since then they have been castigated and assaulted by ultra-Orthodox worshipers.... They have been arrested. They have been to the highest court in the land. They have testified before government commissions.” This week came news from Israel that a new section will soon be established at the Wall at which non-Orthodox prayer will at long last be permitted.
“These alter kockers, with their presence, put an end to something absurd.... The Israeli feminists received help today from the heart of the patriarchy.” —Anat Hoffman