The Women of the Wall prayed at their monthly gathering at the Western Wall on
Sunday morning without incident, despite heightened police alerts – and an
accompanying media frenzy – due to a scheduled mass protest organized by the
senior haredi rabbinic leadership.
Although thousands of haredi
protesters threatened to gather at the Kotel to condemn the women’s organization
for donning traditionally male prayer garb while praying, less than 200
demonstrators came to the holy site, most of whom kept to
Regardless of the low haredi turnout, members of WoW were
protected at all times by iron police barricades and hundreds of officers who
stood between them and potential aggressors.
Additionally, a police
helicopter hovered above the scene for the duration of their prayers to ensure
While relieved that no violence ensued, worshipers expressed
frustration that their morning prayers took on a circus-like environment due to
the hundreds of police, media and gawkers clustering together in case of a
“I have seen this escalation going on for a long time and
it’s ridiculous,” said Hanna, an Orthodox woman who requested her last name not
be published. “This isn’t the place for a fight – it’s the place for
Still, Hanna conceded that Sunday morning’s prayers were far
better than last month’s riotous atmosphere, marred by unruly ultra- Orthodox
youths who threw water bottles, rocks, garbage and chairs; spat on children and
fought with the police, resulting in injuries and three
“Compared to last month this is amazing, but when you have two
[groups of] extremists clashing, the people in the middle – like me – get
stomped on,” she continued.
“They need to have an open dialogue about the
situation, just not here.”
Eli, a yeshiva student who came to pray and
requested his last name not be published, said he didn’t object to the Women of
the Wall wearing tefillin, but agreed with Hanna that they were using an
inappropriate venue to air their differences.
“I don’t have a problem
with [WoW] coming to pray, I have a problem with them attempting to change the
laws of Judaism at its holiest site,” he said. “They’re trying to change the way
things have been for thousands of years and it’s creating problems for
Jerusalem-based Conservative Rabbi Jim Lebeau praised WoW and
the police handling of the potentially combustible protest.
Tammuz 5773 was the finest service I’ve witnessed,” said Lebeau.
credit this to the sensitivity of the leaders of WoW and to the concern of the
Israeli police. The women were not provocative and agreed to some requests of
the police that required compromise.”
Labeau continued, “The police
deserve praise for their plan of separation. We were separate but
Indeed, a police officer at the scene attributed the peaceful
outcome to extensive preparations.
“There were no problems this time
because we separated them with the barriers,” said the officer. “Last time there
was no barrier, so people were fighting. This time we kept them apart and it