A Reform synagogue in Ra’anana was vandalized, ostensibly by Jewish extremists, with graffiti overnight Wednesday, and a menacing knife was left alongside three envelopes containing death threats addressed to prominent individuals who have been calling for gender equality at the Western Wall.
The names on the envelopes were Anat Hoffman, Chair of the Board of Women of the Wall; Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism; and American Rabbi Richard Jacobs, President of the US Union for Reform Judaism. The envelopes all contained death threats.
The graffito on the front of the synagogue declared, “The divine presence will never leave the Western Wall.” On another wall, “Obadiah 18 and 21” was written, referring to passages wherein God destroys Israel’s enemies.
Hoffman said in response that the act of vandalism was committed due to her organization’s struggle for women’s right to pray at the Western Wall, or Kotel: “The knife is a direct result of the ill winds blowing against the implementation of the Kotel deal from the leaders of the Haredi parties and Haredi rabbis, who are doing everything against anybody who is different from them. The murder threat was intended to intimidate and stop us, but our spirit will not be broken. We will continue to defend the women of Israel from the winds of hatred and discrimination raging outside.”
A few weeks ago, dozens of male and female rabbis from the Reform and Conservative movements entered the Western Wall Plaza with Torah scrolls in protest of the non-implementation of the government’s decision to set up a mixed-gender, pluralistic area for prayer. Clashes broke out between the protesters and young ultra-Orthodox Jews at the Kotel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement that said, “I strongly condemn the graffiti discovered this morning at the Reform synagogue in Ra’anana. Such acts have no place in our free society.”
The Tzohar Rabbinical Organization, which describes itself as being “founded upon loyalty to the State of Israel and commitment to Halahcha, ” also released a condemnatory statement: “Even while there are clear differences between how we and the Reform movement approach issues of Jewish identity and the Jewish nature of the State, it should be completely clear that those differences of opinion must never lead to any hint of violence—neither verbal nor physical. We wholly condemn what was done to the Reform center in Ra’anana and join in the call for the authorities to act to stem any further tide of violence and not diminish the seriousness of these incidents.”
MK’s Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party replied to the incident, “Yesh Atid expresses its deep shock and disgust at the dangerous incitement discovered this morning at a Reform synagogue in Ra’anana. Those who carried out these acts are hateful people whose actions are alien to Judaism and Jewish values. This is a clear death threat and we call on the law enforcement agencies to act quickly to find those involved and bring them to justice.”
Ra’anana Mayor Ze’ev Bielski ordered increased surveillance on Progressive Jewish institutions in his city on Thursday morning. In a letter that he sent to Kariv, he said that the incident of the preceding night “crossed red lines.”
By Raanan Ben Zur & Kobi Nachshoni, Ynet News