Religion Magazine

Women of the Wall Open Tefillin Booth in Tel Aviv Train Station

By Gldmeier @gldmeier
Well, it actually happened. After an organization meant to help improve the efficiency of the trains commented critically, and then retracted, on the installation of a booth for putting on tefillin in a train station, Minister of Transportation Betzalel Smotritch criticized them and said anybody can set up such a booth in train stations and if there is any trouble he will help get it approved.
I must say, he kept his word.
Today the Women of the Wall decided to set up a tefillin booth in the central Tel Aviv train station, as they had said they would. They had requested a permit in advance, but Smotritch never responded. They decided to go ahead with it anyway, but moments later the station manager told them to shut it down and leave. They turn to the administration of Israel Railways and to Minister Smotritch and the decision was quickly reversed and they were allowed to stay with their booth and offer passerby to lay tefillin.
Women of the Wall open tefillin booth in Tel Aviv train station
I think Minister Smotritch was right to allow it. He could not really stop it, especially after what he said last week. Not allowing them to man the booth, or woman the booth is perhaps more appropriate, would have turned this into a fight that would have ended up all over the media and probably in the Supreme Court. This is not the Kotel and is not a Haredi or religious stronghold that would be considered a provocation. I think he was right to just let it be and succeed or fail on its own merits and public interest.
Though, according to Srugim, Smotritch denies he gave them the permit to stay. He says he is too busy with solving the public transportation crises of Israel and dealing with the traffic jams to get involved in this. Despite his denial, UTJ (among others) criticized Smotritch for allowing the WOW women to install the booth.
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