Petitioning for peaceful prayer at the Kotel

Rosh Hodesh Adar was marred with levels of violence at the Kotel that were orchestrated by haredi leaders and seem to be a tit for tat reaction to what can be seen as a win for “the reformers” in the courts and in the hearts and minds of the Israeli people and world Jewry.

On March 15, Women of the Wall (WoW) filed a petition in the Supreme Court demanding that we be allowed to pray in peace without disturbances or personal harm and asked that the police ensure that we are protected against physical and verbal violence and abuse.

The petition according to WoW: “ requested a temporary injunction ordering the respondents: Israel police, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation (WWHF), and Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz to  explain their failure to ensure the legal rights of WoW to pray in the women’s section of the Kotel without disturbance.”

We also asked that there be an explanation why there has been no action to stop the same people who regularly engage in criminal acts of violence against us in an ongoing basis. The faces remain the same but the violence has been escalating monthly for the past year. We have repeatedly asked for the police to protect us while the WWHF and the police do nothing to stop the perpetrators of these offenses.

According to WoW leadership: The petition further states that Women of the Wall and all women’s rights to pray freely and safely at the Kotel has fallen victim to a disagreement between Israel Police and the Western WWHF regarding which of the two bodies has the responsibility to protect worshippers at the Kotel.”

This escalation of violence began after the haredi parties refused to implement the plan for the pluralistic section and with every political move there has been an up-swing in their followers’ violent behavior.

The WWHF employees have been systematically targeting WoW members for “special treatment”. They have tried to refuse me entry with a tallit three months ago, they have pushed, shoved and when we did bring Torah’s into the plaza, one of the men grabbed my arm so hard that both sides were black and blue for a month. I watched another WWHF employee pick up my friend and throw her unto the stone ground.

This past Rosh Hodesh, their security went through all my personal items, including riffling through my wallet, taking out and looking at all my credit cards, my license, and reading my pay stub that was in my bag. This is not what is necessary for checking for knives, guns, bombs or even Torahs because they cannot fit in my wallet. This is an abuse of power and was done to humiliate women at the Kotel.

I have been subjected to assault from a group of three haredi women who come every month and blow high decibel ear piercing whistles that can cause permanent hearing loss. I started bringing ear plugs but that only dull the sound. This past Rosh Hodesh, I forgot to bring them, the pain in my ears is still there.They were also joined by young seminary girls who know that it was illegal so they covered their faces as they attacked us. These whistles are considered assault weapons but the WWHF employees will not confiscate them or remove these women from the Kotel.

These women also carry signs that condemn us. I am glad my Hebrew is not good enough to fully understand everything they say. It is good enough to hear people yelling that I should die, that I desecrate the Kotel by praying there, that I am a Nazi, a goy, and a whore. 

On Rosh Hodesh Adar, my prayer was disrupted by the thousands of seminary girls bused in for that purpose by a group that publically announced their intentions in advance, by haredi men that came to riot and by the administrator of the Kotel’s use of a loud speaker, in violation of his own rules, to completely drown us out.

We were herded into a small space to pray where we had to go through groups of girls that were trying to block our entrance. Leaving was even harder. As I walked out holding unto an American friend who has never experienced a haredi riot at the Kotel, the police tried to hold the surging crowd of haredi men back but a group of them were pushing through to attack us.  The police managed to stop them when I was leaving but women behind me were not so lucky.

The double standard of one law for ordinary Israelis and one law for the haredim has to end. If I did any of these acts, I would be arrested. I was arrested three times for praying at the Kotel while wearing a tallit.

I demand protection at the Kotel. I should not be risking my life when I go to pray. The Kotel belongs to all Jews, not just a small minority of Jews. I sincerely pray that Rosh Hodesh Nissan is not a repeat of what we just experienced.