A group of Women of the Wall participants as well as leaders of the Conservative and Reform movements held an Egalitarian prayer service at the Western Wall on Monday, six years after the cancellation of the Western Wall Compromise by the Israeli government, and some would say it turned into a demonstration.
Participants in the Rosh Hodesh prayer service included MK Gilad Kariv (Labor), Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Yossi Havilio, Jerusalem City Council member Laura Wharton, vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization Yizhar Hess, Chairman of the Labor Party in Jerusalem and a candidate for the City Council Eran Ben Yehuda and others.
They all expressed support for the implementation of the Western Wall Compromise and for promoting "religious freedom and equality for women in the holy sites," a Women of the Wall statement said.
Kariv took advantage of his immunity in order to bring a Torah scroll into the Western Wall Plaza, while security guards of the Western Wall rabbi prevented him from passing the scroll to the Women of the Wall for the prayer service since the prayer at this plaza is separate for men and women and held in an Orthodox manner.
Members of the City Council pledged and signed a statement saying "We express our commitment to promote religious freedom at the Western Wall plaza with all the tools at our disposal."
Western Wall Heritage Foundation speaks out against Women of the Wall
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation also sent out a statement about the service, condemning it.
"Women of the Wall arrived this morning, on the first day of the month of Tamuz, at the Western Wall Plaza for a demonstration against the government, contrary to the regulations of the holy sites. MK Gilad Kariv joined the group and entered again with a Torah scroll, contrary to regulations and instructions of the Justice Ministry, causing a major uproar at the Western Wall Plaza.
"The demonstration was prominent and declarative, with signs and a Torah scroll that was desecrated and used as a means of protest for all intents and purposes, with opposition to judicial reform added to the demonstration."Western Wall Heritage Foundation
"The group encountered opposition from Orthodox groups, and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation made significant efforts to separate the fractions and allow prayer to continue for the hundreds of worshippers who came to recite the Rosh Chodesh prayers and families who came to celebrate their children's bar mitzvahs, all of whom were affected by the demonstration.
"The Western Wall Heritage Foundation seeks to keep disputes away from the Western Wall and preserve it as a holy and unifying place," they concluded.
Anat Hoffman, chairperson of Women of the Wall said in an email that was sent to supporters on Monday that she is "livid," explaining that "two years ago, a zealous mob attacked us, seized our suitcase, and destroyed 39 of the 50 prayer books in it, leaving torn pages scattered throughout the Western Wall Plaza. This occurred as approximately 150 police officers and Western Wall security guards looked on.
"When we filed a complaint with the police for this egregious hate crime, we were told that this was not deemed a hate crime, but rather 'an expression of fervent religion,'" Hoffman said and then asked, "Not a hate crime? Can you imagine if a group of non-Jews had torn up Jewish prayer books at the Western Wall? There is no doubt that the perpetrators would be met with the full force of the law, which carries up to three years of imprisonment for such crimes.
She explained that this week, after two years of police inaction, "we received notice that the case was officially closed. Officer Meir Fahima added in this notice that one person, with a seemingly fake name, was interviewed and then released. Not a single perpetrator was charged. This is ludicrous! The police have failed us, further emboldening religious extremists to commit violence against us. The closure of this case demonstrates the police’s ineptitude at keeping the Kotel secure."
Hoffman asked supporters around the world to email the Prime Minister's Office in order to share their frustration.