Haredi protestors prevented the Women of the Wall prayer rights activist group from holding its
monthly prayer service at the Western Wall on Wednesday.
approximately 250 WoW activists were forced to congregate in a different area of the Western Wall plaza because the
women's section of the Wall was too packed, the police said.
one to two hundred shouting and whistle blowing haredi men and women
were protesting close to the WoW prayer area but police had made no
The Jerusalem Police had said they would accompany the group members from the complex’s entrance to the
Western Wall plaza so as to prevent anyone from interfering with their
Last month, thousands of haredi schoolgirls filled the women’s
section entirely, preventing WoW from holding its service there. The group had
to conduct it instead at the entrance to the Western Wall plaza complex, away
from the wall.
The group expressed intense displeasure with the
arrangements last month, saying that at the very least, the police should have
allowed WoW to pray in the area facing the wall behind the main prayer sections
for men and women.
WoW members blew the shofar during
the Wednesday morning prayers, as is customary in the month of Elul.
In April, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that women should
be permitted to don prayer shawls and pray according to their own customs at the
Western Wall, something that was hitherto prohibited.
Before the ruling,
the police were enforcing a 2003 Supreme Court ruling and Justice Ministry
directives that upheld the Regulations for the Protection of Holy Places to the
Jews. Those regulations, dating from 1981, forbid performing religious
ceremonies that are “not according to local custom” or that “may hurt the
feelings of the worshipers” at the site, where local custom is interpreted to
mean Orthodox practice.
This prevented women from performing Jewish
customs that usually only men carry out in Orthodox practice, such as wearing a
prayer shawl or reading from the Torah.
On Wednesday, Rabinowitz’s office
announced that both he and the Jerusalem Police were calling on haredi
representatives in the Jerusalem Municipality to prevent haredi school girls
from going to the Western Wall this month, in light of security concerns ahead
of the last day of Ramadan and the large number of Muslims expected to arrive in
the Old City and the Temple Mount.
Haredi politicians from United Torah
Judaism, both national and municipal, were the driving force behind recent
protests against the Women of the Wall.
Rabinowitz said he also called on
WoW to come “according to the previous arrangement” and not to wear tefillin.