Young woman told to remove anti-overhaul protest sweatshirt to visit Western Wall

Woman’s mother wonders whether she’d have been similarly ordered if shirt bore rightist slogan ‘Temple Mount in our hands,’ says ‘Western Wall is most political place in country’

Jews gather at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on October 12, 2022, for the annual priestly blessing, during the holiday of Sukkot. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)
Jews gather at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on October 12, 2022, for the annual priestly blessing, during the holiday of Sukkot. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

A young woman has said she was prevented from entering the Western Wall plaza on Monday because she was wearing a sweatshirt bearing the phrase “Without democracy, there is no academia,” a slogan associated with the anti-judicial overhaul protest movement.

According to the rules of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation — the government agency that administers the site — “political events” are not permitted in the square and clothing must be respectful.

However, politicized events are in fact frequently held at the plaza and there was no suggestion that the woman’s shirt could be found to be in violation of the site’s so-called “modesty” rules.

Mass protests against the government’s controversial plans to remake the judicial system and weaken its powers to act as a check against the political leadership have been ongoing for 10 weeks.

Warnings against the overhaul have come from all sectors of Israeli society, with academics and students playing a prominent role in protests.

The young woman was not attending a political event at the Western Wall but rather a tour organized by the pre-army academy she attends.

Students and teachers protest the overhaul with a banner saying ‘Without democracy, no academia’ in Tel Aviv, on February 5, 2022 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

According to Channel 12 news, the woman, who was not named, arrived with her friends, who were all allowed to enter the area, but guards told her that she would not be allowed to join them unless she removed the sweatshirt.

The young woman’s mother told the outlet her daughter felt that she had no choice but to remove it, and that she had been unfairly targeted because of the nature of the slogan on her shirt.

“I asked myself, if the sweatshirt had ‘The Temple Mount in our hands’ written on it, would they have asked her to remove it?” said the woman’s mother, referencing the famous message from IDF commander Motta Gur on capturing the holy site in 1967, now often used as a nationalist slogan.

“There is no defiant statement in the quote ‘Without democracy there is no academy.’ What will happen if someone were to go there with the Israeli flag, which has also become a symbol of protest? The Western Wall is the most political place in the country,” said the girl’s mother, named only as Dana.

The girl’s father, Dudi, said it appeared that the guards had received their instructions to make the girl remove the shirt from higher up the chain of command.

“I don’t think a shirt with the slogan ‘Without democracy, there is no academy’ is something that justifies preventing a young girl from entering the Western Wall plaza,” he said.

“It is clear that this incident is part of what is happening now in the country. We need to stop this worsening of the situation before we get told what is allowed and not allowed in other places, not only at the Western Wall,” he said.

In a statement to Channel 12 news, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said “according to a preliminary investigation, the event in question is not known to the foundation’s officials.”

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