Early Sunday afternoon hundreds of girls and women turned out to participate, while secluded to their own side, in the mass demonstration against government efforts to draft haredi men.
“My husband came today so I came as well. He’s far away on the other side of the street,” said a 25-year-old Orthodox woman from Jerusalem who attended the prayer. “When Israel made this country, it was a base rule that the Orthodox don’t go to the army. And it’s nice to see all the girls. I’m seeing friends here and it’s fun.”
The women’s side of the demonstration was lively with chatting, children chasing each other and girls taking pictures of themselves and others on their camera phones. Like a parade of different colored but dark school uniforms and scarves, they gathered to support their brothers and husbands.
“Women have a huge power here. The only reason a woman wouldn’t be here is if she has to look after the toddlers at home, otherwise women have a huge power and should definitely be here. There hasn’t been a gathering like this, of Jews, since second temple times. Of course you want to be a part of history,” said a newlywed haredi (ultra-Orthodox) woman from South Africa.
Hani Steinmetz, 18-yearsold, from Cleveland, Ohio, said: “I think the turn out of girls is amazing. I think it’s not just affecting the boys who are going to go to the army. It’s affecting all of us as religious people so we came to show our support for our brothers and brethren.”
“I think it’s not supposed to be a loud protest. We don’t want to be a bunch of hooligans, but we want to say we think it’s wrong and we’re not doing this to be anti-government. We’re not doing it to be rebellious. We just came out here to show we’re going to do this calmly but we don’t believe this is the way the government should deal with this,” she said.
As the afternoon wore on, the crowd became more serious.
Some women and girls were in tears as they recited prayers in silence. A booming voice echoed all throughout the square from huge, mounted speakers and playing children. Voices and shouting could be heard from down the street, from the men’s side of the protest, but the women remained mostly quiet.
“Our life our children, we want to see them learning Torah. It saddens my heart. I have my girl and my boy with me here,” said Dvora, a 23-year-old Jerusalem resident who lives just down the street from the site of the demonstration. In her arms she was holding a crying infant girl.
She takes a moment to offer the girl a daisy, but it does nothing to calm her.
Dvora hands the girl a prayer book, which succeeds in calming her daughter down as she continues talking.
“For kids like her it’s very important to be here” she says pointing to her five-year- old. “This is something that will be in her heart for many years.”
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