Last Friday, I returned home from the Kotel feeling completely drained and exhausted due to verbal abuse and the physical assault that I experienced that Rosh Hodesh Av morning. I could not recover sufficiently to go to synagogue that Friday night.
Attacks on Women of the Wall at the Kotel are not new, but the intensity of the violence has been escalating for the past few months. This escalation began when the haredi leaders refused to implement the government approved pluralistic section and has grown bolder and bolder as new wins are tallied. There is a direct correlation between legislation that discriminates against non-haredi Jews and the violent behavior directed towards them.
What was really shocking was that the police did not act to prevent the violence in the women’s section during Rosh Hodesh prayers even after they were repeatedly asked to intervene. They stood by while women and children were subjected to haredi women coming up the people and blowing shrill whistles in their ears, when women moved forward behind a large sign to ram worshippers and when women were being hit and kicked. These women blatantly disregarded the rules prohibiting signs at the Kotel and display signs that depicted grossly offensive messages that were completely inappropriate in a holy place.
“They recruited more women to disturb us during prayer. They [the women aggressors] toot their whistles with all their might until they were shaking,” said WoW board member Sylvie Rozenbaum who also noted that many women (who were praying alone and not with WoW) approached this group of women complaining that they could not pray because of the noise. Men on the other side of the mehitza also complained.
I wore 32 decibel noise reduction ear plugs but they only dulled the pain of the whistles.
According to a referee whistle comparison chart many metal whistles are in the 127-28 decibel range. A jack hammer is only 95 decibels. Hearing loss occurs from sustained exposure to sounds that are at or above 90 decibels and pain occurs at 125 decibels. This is what we are being subjected to. “My ears are still sore from the shrieking whistles,” said Rachel Cohen Yeshurun on Motzi Shabbat.
On Rosh Hodesh Av, surrounded by signs of the destruction, Women praying were called “whores” by fellow Jews and also told that we should be “burned alive” and be “exterminated like vermin”.
When I left the Kotel, I saw male supporters of WoW who stood behind the mehitza and prayed with us being beaten by groups of young haredi men. I saw one man set-upon by at least five of these youths while the police stood and watched.
“The writing is on the wall, it is only a matter of time before the violence escalates from the eardrum bursting whistles and beatings we saw this month to something worse,” said Cohen Yeshurun.
Anat Hoffman, WoW’s chair said she doesn’t remember such a violent atmosphere at the Kotel in our 27 year history and that the brazen indifference of the police only serves to empower the aggressors.
It is time to stop this once-and-for-all. It is time for the police to do their job. It is time for the haredi rabbis and leadership to stop inciting violence at the Kotel and anywhere else. And it is time for the government to legislate a law that breaks the haredi exclusive control of the practice of Judaism in Israel.