Women of the Wall pray at Robinsons Arch after several clashes at the main Western Wall plaza.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Two women fainted at the Western Wall on Friday and three were in tears, as a long-time Women of the Wall (WoW) activist stood holding a Torah.
Chaos ensued after members and supporters of WoW tried to pray in the Western Wall Plaza during celebrations of the group’s 30th anniversary.
Batya Cohen-Kallus tried to hold back tears as she held a Torah after the attempted prayers.
The group meets at the Western Wall on the first day of each Hebrew month. Some members pray wearing tallitot (prayer shawls), while some don tefillin and read the special portion for Rosh Hodesh (the new Moon) from a Torah scroll.
Many people in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and wider religious communities consider the women’s actions offensive, especially as they are performed at the holy site.
This was the worst clash between WoW and the haredi administration of the Western Wall since December 2013, when Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall, tried to lower tensions which had been rising since May of that year.
Two weeks ago, WoW asked permission to use amplified speakers at Friday’s prayers, since they expected about a 1,000 women to attend, however, Rabinowitz refused their request.
As the women tried to celebrate, thousands of young girls from haredi seminaries blocked their passage, preventing them from reaching the wall.
Former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Yitzhak Pindrus reportedly asked the seminary rabbis about the matter, and they responded by giving permission for the girls to leave their studies for a “holy mission.”
Pindrus said what was meant to be a silent and respectful demonstration quickly escalated into chaos.
The seminary girls, who were brought on buses from seven of Jerusalem’s Beit Yaakov seminaries, arrived at 6:30 a.m., filling the entire plaza so that when WoW began to arrive at 7 a.m., they couldn’t reach the wall.
Young yeshiva boys distributed fliers in which the three leading figures of WoW were described as “radical Left activists and anti-Israel.” The fliers featured the women’s photographs, names and occupations. Some anti-WoW demonstrators closed in on a former paratroopers who were among the group that liberated the Western Wall in 1967 and had come out to support WoW.
“When Messiah will come, you will not be redeemed,” yelled one counter-demonstrator.
Leslie Zacks, an executive of WoW, blamed the chaos on the premeditated failure of Rabbi Rabinowitz to provide them with a safe place to pray.
She also mentioned the failure by the Israel Police to provide security to which they were entitled, and which she said were denied on the orders of Rabinowitz.
Executive director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism Rabbi Gilad Kariv attended the event and said, “This time, Rabinowitz went too far and as of now, the movement will see that his supporters and donors in Jewish communities abroad hear about his failures.”
Pindrus later said he was aware of violence and aggressive acts by seminary girls. “Things apparently went too far here and there,” he said.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>