Shalom Life | December 23, 2014

Ultra Orthodox Jews Vandalize Women of the Wall Ads in Jerusalem

Bus ads depicting girls in prayer shawls and encouraging bat mitzvah's at the Kotel have been severely damaged

By: Daniel Koren

Published: October 21st, 2014 in News » Israel

Ultra Orthodox Jews Vandalize Women of the Wall Ads in Jerusalem

Photo Caption: A damaged 'Women of the Wall ad' on an Egged bus in Jerusalem

Photo Credit: Women of the Wall


Last week, the Women of the Wall launched a new ad campaign that depicts Jewish girls in prayer shawls and wearing kippot, encouraging that they request to have Bar Mitzvah ceremonies at the Kotel (the Western Wall) as so many Jewish boys do for their Bar Mitzvah's.

The campaign is being run as advertisements on Jerusalem buses, an iconic occurrence in itself as Egged, Israel's most well-known public bus company, had for years refused to feature ads that carried images of women in cities with ultra-Orthodox populations, like Jerusalem.

Currently, ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities claim that displaying photos of women is "indecent."

Already, only a week into the group's campaign, it seems Egged's skepticism to run the ads, though biased, holds some inkling of rationale, as Egged public buses carrying the advertisements have been vandalized and met with violence, with the posters ripped off the buses.

According to reports, the culprits behind the vandalism are members of ultra-Orthodox communities who are outraged at the "indecent" advertisements.

The Women of the Wall began the campaign because, unlike in the Diaspora, most girls in Israel do not have Bat mitzvah ceremonies or partake in the ritual that Jewish communities in the West hold dear. It's just one of several initiatives the group have embarked on in a bid to outlaw what they decree are sexist and outdated religious customs, and bring forth an Israel that allows women to have an equal relationship to Judaism as men do.

Over the last few years, the group have made several headlines in their ongoing efforts to give women equal rights, advocating for women to be allowed to pray at the Kotel where the men do, and to don tefillin in public spaces.

Earlier this year, a study found that most Diaspora Jews agreed with the Women's efforts.

The Egged bus poster ads feature a photo of a bat mitzvah-aged girl and her mother, accompanied by Hebrew text, which reads "Mom, I want a bat mitzvah at the kotel, too.”

Jerusalem police claim that one of the buses carrying the ad was attacked by Ultra-Orthodox protesters, and that they were forced to extricate the bus.

Egged only agreed to allow advertisements featuring women in ultra-orthodox neighborhoods a year and a half ago, part of a high-profile court settlement. One of the major components of the deal was that the State agreed it would cover any physical damages made to Egged's buses following vandalism.

Thus far, it seems the expenses are already running high.

Responding to the violence and vandalism, Women of the Wall leader Lesley Sachs said, “It is sad to yet again see the ultra-Orthodox citizens take the law into their own hands and use Judaism as an excuse for the use of force, threat and violence against women. We call on ultra-Orthodox leadership to strongly denounce this act of violence and all others.”

One of the girls featured in the new bus ads apparently plans to hold her Bat Mitzvah at the Kotel this Friday, which is expected to draw protesters and critics, once again, from the ultra-Orthodox community.

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