WZO: We didn't fund Orthodox women's prayer service at the Kotel

"We understand that the World Zionist Organization (WZO) has launched an inquiry into the incident and we eagerly await its findings," Hagoel said.

 Women of the Wall prayer event for Rosh Hodesh Iyar, May 2, 2022 (photo credit: COURTESY WOMEN OF THE WALL)
Women of the Wall prayer event for Rosh Hodesh Iyar, May 2, 2022
(photo credit: COURTESY WOMEN OF THE WALL)

The World Zionist Organization said on Sunday that it "did not fund buses or any other aspect of the prayer service of young haredi Orthodox girls at the Kotel. There were a few flags of the WZO at the service and we approved the cooperation with these organizations - but there was no funding involved. We are looking into the claims of both sides of violence."

Women of the Wall are demanding that Yaakov Hagoel, chairman of the World Zionist Organization and acting chairman of the Jewish Agency, take responsibility and apologize for the violence that ensued after the WZO bused in groups of haredi women to the Western Wall during their prayer service.

The young haredi women confronted the Women of the Wall and the situation turned violent with both sides claiming the other side incited the violence.

Around 150 members of the Women of the Wall movement who carried out a morning prayer service at the Western Wall last Monday morning to mark the new month of Iyar and Israeli Independence Day were confronted by both police and a large group of the haredi women.

Women of the Wall approached Hagoel, but claim that he wouldn’t apologize for the incidents.

Adding to the tensions was an ongoing internal disagreement in the WZO. Buses carrying hundreds of the Orthodox women arrived at the Western Wall on Monday morning, for an event said to have been organized by two haredi WZO departments – World Shas and Eretz Hakodesh (the Holy Land) – to mark Independence Day.

Jews pray as they protest members of the Women of the Wall movement bringing in Torah scrolls to their hold Rosh Hodesh prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Old City, March 4, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)Jews pray as they protest members of the Women of the Wall movement bringing in Torah scrolls to their hold Rosh Hodesh prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Old City, March 4, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

However, it was designed to overshadow a prayer service on Sunday evening organized by the head of a third WZO department, Dr. Yizhar Hess, former director of the Israeli Conservative movement.

In a press release, Women of the Wall  (WoW) said “the events were held under the auspices of the World Zionist Organization and with the approval of the acting chairman of the Jewish Agency. WoW met with Hagoel and demanded an apology from the World Zionist Organization.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Hagoel refused to take responsibility for the violent incident that took place at the Western Wall against the WoW.”

According to the release, WoW claims that “the issue will be investigated,” and that Hagoel “to our surprise even asked for ‘evidence of violence’ directed at us as if the photos, complaints filed with the police and the detention of one of the violent girls during the incident were not enough. We await the results of the inspection and hope that whoever serves as both the chairman of the WZO and of the Agency, will take responsibility for the incident and prevent the occurrence of similar future events.”

Hagoel is a member of World Likud and serves as chairman of the WZO as a representative of his party in the World Zionist Congress. Therefore, many of Hagoel’s constituents are against the Kotel deal or have difficulty with the progressive streams of Judaism.

Hagoel sent a letter to the board of governors on Sunday evening relating to the incident.

“Several of you have inquired as to the events that took place last Monday at the Kotel on Rosh Hodesh,(the new month)” Hagoel wrote, “We want to be sure to share our sentiments directly with you.

We condemn the behavior displayed in the strongest possible terms. Such conduct is against the foundational values of The Jewish Agency and runs completely against every aspect of our ethos and ethics.”

Hagoel added that “We understand that the World Zionist Organization (WZO) has launched an inquiry into the incident and we eagerly await its findings. We are proud of our record for promoting pluralism in Israeli society and mutual respect among the multiple streams of Judaism. Needless to say, a strong response is essential to these highly disturbing events. We anticipate receiving the results of the WZO inquiry shortly and will have a better idea of what happened, why and how it can be prevented moving forward.”

The letter was signed by Hagoel, as acting of the Jewish Agency, Chairman of the Board Michael Siegel and Director General Amira Aharonovitz.