Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu re-tweeted a call by Shas leader Arye Deri to thwart the Women of the Wall’s scheduled prayer service at the Kotel on Friday, sparking indignation.
מחר, יום שישי, ראש חודש כסליו, בשעה 7 בבוקר, אני ועשרות חברי כנסת נגיע להתפלל בכותל המערבי שריד בית מקדשנו. אני קורא לכל מי שקדושת הכותל חשובה לו להגיע ולהתפלל עמנו, כדי שחלילה המקום הקדוש לא יחולל.— אריה מכלוף דרעי (@ariyederi) November 4, 2021
Violence is now likely, particularly from Orthodox protesters, at the holy site in the wake of Deri’s comments and Netanyahu’s support.
On Thursday afternoon, Deri tweeted that he and 10 other MKs would go to the Kotel on Friday morning and called on “anyone for whom the Western Wall is important to pray with us so that, God forbid, this holy site should not be desecrated.”
Netanyahu retweeted Deri’s tweet, leading to condemnation of him by Reform and Masorti (Conservative) leaders in Israel, and from the Woman of the Wall.
At the same time, Mordechai Eliav, director of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which administers the site and is also responsible for security there, wrote a letter to Jerusalem District Police Commander Doron Turgeman, telling him that in light of the thousands of protesters expected at the site and the involvement of MKs, the organization was not responsible for ensuring public order at the site on Friday morning.
Like at the beginning of every Jewish month, Women of the Wall will be holding a prayer service at the Western Wall on Friday morning.
Reform leader and Labor MK Rabbi Gilad Kariv has said he will once again use his parliamentary immunity to take a Torah scroll inside the holy site for the group, as he has done in recent months.
Regulations enacted by administrator of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, prevent anyone from bringing in a Torah scroll, a regulation he passed specifically to stop Women of the Wall from reading from the Torah in their services.
This month, the ultra-Orthodox MKs, led by Deri, are apparently trying to use their parliamentary immunity to stop Kariv from bringing a Torah to the site.
Kariv condemned Netanyahu for his retweet, calling him “a hypocrite,” and implied that the former prime minister had previously spoken in a derogatory manner about haredi behavior at the Western Wall.
Head of the Reform Movement in Israel Anna Kislanski said the organization “is hearing of unprecedented efforts to incite political and Orthodox forces against worshipers who want to pray in accordance with their own custom at the Western Wall.
“The one who has gone above and beyond, as is usual, is leader of the opposition Benjamin Netanyahu, who knows well that the majority of the Jewish people are associated with the liberal Jewish denominations but, regardless, decides to continue with his destructive approach which he started as prime minister when he trampled on the Western Wall agreement which he himself initiated, due to ultra-Orthodox pressure,” said Kislanski.
Director of the Masorti Movement in Israel Rakefet Ginsburg called for the immediate implementation of the Kotel agreement, which Netanyahu originally backed, which would create a state-recognized egalitarian prayer section at the southern end of the Western Wall.
Ginsburg said recent violence at the site in previous months during Women of the Wall services should have raised a red flag for decision-makers, and said the Western Wall agreement must be implemented to avoid violence and even bloodshed there.
“We must not wait for a violent incident in order to draw the necessary lessons. This is our duty as public leaders to work towards dialogue, and I call on all leaders of all denominations to join this call for a solution and for calming the atmosphere,” said Ginsburg.