Exactly three days after the Supreme Court issued an order in Women of the Wall’s petition against the Israeli police, the Administrator of the Kotel, and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation thirty days to explain why they will not guarantee WoW the right to pray in the women’s section without disruption; violence broke out again. This time, the Western Wall Heritage foundation employees attacked the leadership and students of Hebrew Union College and the leadership of the Reform movement in Israel and the Diaspora as they carried Torahs into the plaza.
The group of 150 prayed first at the Southern wall on the temporary structure and then moved to the Northern plaza for the Torah service. When Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Reform movement in North America approached the entrance to the plaza, he was roughed up by the WWHF guards, one of whom threatened to spray him with mace. An ultra-Orthodox man tried to rip a Torah out of the arms of Anat Hoffman, the director of the Israel Religious Action Center.
Did the police try to protect them by, at least, detaining the rioters or by relieving the security guards for attacking students and rabbis? No. Instead, they detained Rabbi Gilad Kariv the executive director of the Reform movement in Israel. He told the Jerusalem Post that the incident today was one of the most violent he had ever witnessed at the Kotel.
Kariv said, “Many of those holding Torah scrolls were hit and punched by the guards. I saw Rabbi Rick Jacobs taking the brunt of the blows.”
The Kotel administrator, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz denied that the guards attacked the group and claimed that exactly the opposite was true, that a group of Rabbis, educators and students, holding Torahs, attacked the guards. In an email, he called the worshipers provocateurs who only want to start trouble and that the Western Wall Heritage Foundation filed a police complaint against the Reform movement.
And Rabbi Rabinowitz isn’t the only one who likes to spin what is happening at the Kotel. Just two days earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to spin the Kotel freeze when he addressed the Jewish Federation’s general assembly by satellite hook-up.
Netanyahu told the leadership that he is still fully committed to the establishment of an egalitarian space at the Kotel but he tried to explain that the Kotel plan voted on by the government in 2016 after almost three years of intense negotiations, wasn’t about creating a new prayer space but to fix up the existing space of the Southern wall. This is simply not true.
The prime minister chose not to speak about the aspects of the deal that were the most important to the liberal movements: the common entrance and the governance of the space. Without the common entrance that included increased visibility, the pluralistic prayer space will remain hidden away and out of sight and mind from the rest of the Kotel. The space will remain the back of the bus.
Netanyahu claims that he wants all Jews to feel at home in Israel but his actions prove that these are just empty lies. They are just spin.