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WATCH: Thousands of ultra-Orthodox protest women's prayer at Western Wall

For the first time in 24 years, Israel Police protected nearly 500 Women of the Wall members Friday morning as they gathered at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem for their monthly prayer service. The women were confronted by thousands of ultra-Orthodox protesters, both young girls who watched from the side and men of all ages, who acted violently towards the group of women.

Women of the Wall praying at Kotel May 10, 2013 (Activestills)

Protesters reportedly threw stones, water bottlers, garbage and whatever else they could in their direction, and a few were reportedly arrested. The police managed to enable a small group of 20-30 women to actually reach the women’s section at the Wall. According to Haaretz, the women planned to bring a Torah scroll, but decided not to at the last minute due to Naftali Bennett’s request. Haredi community leaders, including Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef urged young women to go out in mass to pray Friday to push Women of the Wall members aside.

According to the Haredi community, women are not allowed to wear prayer shawls or phylacteries, or read from the Torah at the site. However on April 25 the Jerusalem District Court ruled that a 2003 Supreme Court decision that such practices disturb the Orthodox character of the site did not warrant arrests by police. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided not to appeal the decision, making Friday’s prayer service the first time in 24 years that Women of the Wall were offered legal protection and some form of official legitimacy.

According to a Women of the Wall representative, the group is greatly appreciative of the Israel Police’s protection, and calls on ultra-Orthodox leadership to denounce all forms of violence against women. Here is a video the group released:

For nearly 25 years, Women of the Wall members have gone every Rosh Hodesh (first of the Hebrew month) to pray on the women’s side of the barricade at the Kotel plaza– but are often harassed and prevented from doing so – and have on several occasions been arrested. The group’s mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of the right of women to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.

MKs join hundreds of women praying at Western Wall, defying law

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    1. aristeides

      Isn’t incitement to riot a crime in Israel?

      Reply to Comment
    2. David

      Shouldn’t this post be highlighting “outrageous IDF brutality” and attacking anybody who suggests that these Haredim might be religious lunatics?

      Reply to Comment
      • Aaron Z. Snyder

        They aren’t???

        Reply to Comment
        • XYZ

          You apparently didn’t catch the irony of what David is saying. He is saying that if these WoW women really wanted to express religious freedom by praying at the “holiest place in Judaism” and went up on the Temple Mount and demanded that the Muslim Waqf allow them to pray there in the name of religious freedom and a mob of Muslims attacked them while the IDF was protecting them, 972 “progressives” would accuse the IDF of brutality and the WoW women of being “extremist religious fanatics”.

          As usual, 972 is posting this, NOT out of any concern for “religious freedom” and human rights, but viewing it as simply another chance to attack the hated Haredim/Orthodox, because what the WoW is doing has nothing to do with piety and religious expression. It is a provocative political demonstration, period.
          I don’t know why 972 even supports the Wow.
          (1) The Western Wall is in “illegally occuped territory”, i.e. an “illegal settlement” according to 972’s view of things.
          (2) Why is the Kotel “holy”? Because it is near the site of the Holy Temple and it is considered holy because animal sacrifices were conducted there for centuries. Does WoW and 972 view animal sacrifices as being “holy” and worthy of commemoration? Of course not.
          (3) The Arabs object to the whole Jewish presence at the Kotel and are demanding for it to be given to them as part of a “2-state solution” so 972 shouldn’t even be encouraging a large Jewish presence there.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Philos

      This is the “Deep South”… There will be blood. The religious fanatics will make sure of that.

      Reply to Comment
    4. dickerson3870

      Now Israel might actually emerge from the Dark Ages; if someone could just rein in the “modesty patrols”.

      Reply to Comment
    5. An interesting wedged space decision by the Jerusalem District Court. If the prayers continue to go well, over time such a decision can even change the High Court’s view, upon petition. A little more evidience that jurisprudence may end up evolving.

      (Can I say the word “evolve?”)

      Reply to Comment
    6. Piotr Berman

      Women should really know their place. For example, Lot was a just man, the only one in Sodom, and he offer his daughters to be raped — and one can assume that they did not volunteer. It beats me why WoW want to pray there, but the arguments I read in JP by the Orthodox commentators were most amusing.

      To wit, there are reports and photographs of women praying at the Wall in 19-th century without being separated from men. But the counter-argument is that it was only because of oppression of Muslim authorities that prohibited raising the separating curtain. Liberated, Jews should be able to keep their women down, like Muslim do when they have their freedom.

      Reply to Comment