Women physically, verbally harassed at Western Wall after prayer service

Women of the Wall offshoot group has publicly rejected the agreement for a pluralist prayer section and says it will continue to pray at the women’s section of the current Western Wall plaza.

February 29, 2016 15:58
2 minute read.
western wall

Members of the Original Women of the Wall organization at the Western Wall, February 29, 2016. (photo credit: OWOW)

The Original Women of the Wall smuggled a Torah into the women’s section of the Western Wall on Monday, and worshipers at the site physically and verbally harassed them.

After concluding the day’s Torah reading, the 20 OWOW worshipers were subject to vocal attacks and curses, while two women physically shoved some of the prayer participants and grabbed them by the arm.

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OWOW, founding members of Women of the Wall who split from the organization, has publicly rejected the agreement made between the government and the non-Orthodox Jewish denominations together with WOW last month, and says it will continue to pray at the women’s section of the Western Wall plaza regardless of the agreement.

Worshipers in the men’s section also shouted at the women through the partition, calling the OWOW prayer participants “non- Jews,” saying they were committing “sacrilegious acts” and telling them to leave the Western Wall and to be “ashamed of yourselves.”

Eventually several police officers arrived to restore order, removing the women who were harassing the OWOW worshipers.

The women had discreetly brought a small Torah scroll into the site. Regulations at the Western Wall prohibit bringing a private Torah scroll into the area.

Prof. Shulamit Magnus, a prominent member of OWOW, said they were pushed and shoved by screaming women following reading from the Torah.

“Unfortunately, we are accustomed to having catcalls, whistles, screams and curses from the men’s section,” she said. “But this physical attack on our bodies from other women was shocking.”

Magnus expressed gratitude to the police for intervening and protecting their prayer service.

“Fortunately, the police arrived and, following legal procedure, removed the women who were disturbing the peace, which allowed us to complete our service,” she said. “The police also stayed nearby as we dispersed from the Kotel, ensuring that we were not harmed in the plaza.”

OWOW has begun of late to stage its prayer ceremonies at the women’s section not just for the new month “Rosh Hodesh” prayers as it and WOW have done in the past.

The rejection by OWOW of the recent agreement to create a formal pluralist prayer section could complicate its implementation.

In 2013, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that women in WOW prayer services must be allowed to pray in accordance with their own customs and not be subject to arrest for wearing prayer shawls and tefillin as they had been previously.

The terms of the agreement reached last month require the government to radically upgrade the current space for non-Orthodox prayer at the Robinson’s Arch area at the southern end of the Western Wall, which will be formally recognized as a space for non-Orthodox prayer and will be administered by a body including representatives of the non-Orthodox movements.

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