Women of Wall called ‘Nazis’

Police step in as haredi men hurl epithets during Rosh Hodesh prayers.

February 16, 2010 04:18
2 minute read.
Police moved in and blocked off the area yesterday

women of wall police 311. (photo credit: Barry Schlesinger)

Haredi men hurled epithets at a gathering of Women of the Wall members on Monday, screaming “Nazis!” and “You caused the Holocaust!” as the 200 or so mostly female worshipers took part in the group’s monthly prayer vigil at the Western Wall.

The group arrived at the site around 7 on Monday morning to take part in Rosh Chodesh celebrations for the new Jewish month of Adar. After about 30 minutes, however, worshipers on the men’s side of the Western Wall’s prayer section began verbally attacking group members, objecting to their singing and their wearing of tallitot prayer shawls, a spokeswoman for Women of the Wall (WOW) told The Jerusalem Post.

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“All of a sudden this group of men got really riled up and started yelling ‘Nazis!’ and so on,” said WOW’s Public Relations Coordinator Michelle Handelman, who was at the Western Wall when the ruckus began.

“The police, who were standing by to protect WOW members, moved in and blocked off the area. However, a group of some 10 haredi women then moved in and began antagonizing the group as well,” said Handelman.

Although WOW members were pushed and hit during the fracas, police did a good job of controlling the situation, she added.

“The police handled it well,” she said. “And after the encounter was over, we all moved to Robinson’s Arch, where we hold our monthly Torah readings.”

Handelman added that the Torah reading went smoothly, without any interruption, and that while the prior incident at the Western Wall was unpleasant, members were elated to take part in the monthly service.

“Women who had never read Torah or have never read Torah in Israel were invited for a special aliya,” Handelman said. “Nofrat Frenkel, who was arrested at the wall in November [after donning a tallit and carrying a Torah scroll] led the Torah service.”

Handelman added that some 50 men took part in the service as well.

Nonetheless, Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich issued a statement after the outburst at the prayer site, criticizing the WOW members and calling on all sides to “understand the sensitivity” of the site.

“The Rabbi of the Western Wall criticizes the group of women who arrived at the site this morning,” a statement from the rabbi’s office read.

“As a place dear to the heart of every Jew, every movement, and every worldview, the Western Wall must remain a place that unifies rather than separates the people of Israel,” the statement continued.

“The different movements need to understand the complexity and sensitivity of the Western Wall, and not turn it into a place of argument and conflict.”

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