Vandals sprayed offensive and threatening slogans at the entrance to the south Jerusalem home of Peggy Cidor, a journalist and a member of the Woman of the Wall organization, which campaigns for egalitarian women’s prayer at the Western Wall.
A neighbor called the police after discovering the graffiti on Monday morning, spray painted in the stairwell leading to Cidor’s apartment.
Slogans declared “Women of the Wall are villains,” “Jerusalem is holy,” and, in a play on Cidor’s name when written in Hebrew, that “Peggy has passed her expiration date.” On Cidor’s door, the vandals scrawled “Torah tag,” a reference to “price tag” vandalism attacks, perpetrated by extremist settlers and their allies against Palestinian and Israeli Arabs. Another scrawl warned that Cidor was only the first, and that more attacks would follow.
Cidor told The Times of Israel that she would not be deterred by the attack and that any changes to her lifestyle are “out of the question.”
“I’m not afraid,” she said. “It takes more than that to scare me. I’m just pissed off.”
The mother of three first got wind of the attack when the police knocked on her front door.
“The problem is not who did this,” she said. “It is whether the rabbis will understand that this isn’t the way to do it.”
Cidor added that while she realized the extent of the emotional challenge posed the ultra-Orthodox by the Women of the Wall, she expected at least one or two leading rabbis to condemn the attack.
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, the rabbi of the Western Wall, said that the perpetrators did not represent Judaism.
“It’s a despicable incident,” he told Army Radio, noting his concern at the way events surrounding the dispute over the Western Wall were unfolding. “I’m very sorry that people are behaving irresponsibly. The Western Wall is no place for arguments.”
Rabinovich said he hoped that a solution would soon be reached and explained that the ultra-Orthodox authorities were still examining a proposal to open an addition section of the Western Wall for pluralistic prayer. Although the Women of the Wall initially supported the idea of establishing a prayer site in the Robinson’s Arch area in a more southern part of the Wall, both the women and Rabinovich himself have since expressed their reservations about the plan.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also denounced the incident, saying, “This is violence in every sense of the word and it should be dealt with using the full force of the law.”
Cidor said Barkat had sent her a text message promising to call her later in the day.
MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) blamed the attack on provocative statements by ultra-Orthodox MKs and the leaders of the ultra-Orthodox community concerning the debate over the Women of the Wall.
“This is seriously stepping over the line,” Rozin said in a statement, calling on leaders of the ultra-Orthodox community along with MKs from Haredi parties to condemn the attack unequivocally and demand for an immediate end to such incidents.
Cidor said she had spoken to Yitzhak Pindrus, an ultra-Orthodox senior deputy mayor of the city. Pindrus, she said, expressed his shock at the incident but Cidor told him she expected a more public condemnation.
“I told him, ‘don’t let me down,’” she said.
Pindrus told the Times of Israel that he denounced the attack as being utterly unacceptable.
“I can’t imagine who would do something like this,” he said.
Police launched in investigation into the attack, which comes after months of determined campaigning by the women, who are demanding the right to pray at the Western Wall according to their custom, wearing prayer shawls and tefillin (phylacteries). The women have been opposed by an increasingly vociferous ultra-Orthodox opposition who claim the women, by embracing prayer practices usually reserved for Jewish men, are offensive.
Earlier this month, thousands of ultra-Orthodox protesters massed at the holy site to try to block the women from holding their monthly prayer meeting. The ensuing clash turned violent, with ultra-Orthodox teens throwing rocks and garbage at the women in a melee that required police intervention to protect the women.
Growing support from liberal Jews, whose prayer services involve women taking on roles that the mainstream of Orthodox Judaism reserves only for men, has been met with increased objection from the ultra-Orthodox camp.
In remarks published Monday, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said he would do “everything in my power” to secure the right for Women to pray at the Western Wall in prayer shawls.