May 10, 2013
For the first time in 24 years, Israel Police protected nearly 400 Women of the Wall today as they gathered at the Western Wall (Kotel). The women and the police were confronted by thousands of ultra-Orthodox (haredi), both young girls watching from the side and haredi men of all ages, acting out violently towards the group of women.
The women successfully completed their prayer with tallitot (prayer shawls) and tefillin (phylacteries|) while police held back the thousands of angry haredi men. The men threw chairs, garbage bags, water bottles, coffee cups, and stink bombs at the women. At least one man was arrested in connection to the violence.
The thousands of young seminary girls, released from studies and bused into the Western Wall, watched on and some prayed, no doubt shocked by the violent scene. Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall Chair said, “We always wanted to reach out to the seminary girls and today they reached us. We connected, we prayed side by side as women of faith. I hope the young girls recognized that our prayers do not violate halakha and they respect that.”
Women of the Wall is proud to have gotten to this historic point, in which women are praying freely, defended by the police. Likewise, the group is greatly saddened by the use of violence by haredi men. Women of the Wall calls on ultra-Orthodox leadership to denounce all forms of violence against women.
Women of the Wall greatly appreciates the defense of the Israeli Police. They are to be commended for their brave and honorable work today and their well-orchestrated plan of keeping the group safe. The police escorted Women of the Wall and supporters out of the Kotel and onto armored buses which took the group out of danger. Haredi men lined the streets spitting and throwing large stones at the windows of the buses.
The most moving part of the service was the blessings and celebration of a young Bat mitzvah girl. After reciting the traditional blessings, she sat on the shoulders of a woman while celebrating and dancing, as is traditional for the coming of age ceremony. Hoffman relates, “We are proud to be the women whose shoulders on which this young girl can stand, to celebrate her bat mitzvah at the Kotel and to pray here safely for years to come.”
For nearly twenty-five years Women of the Wall has continued to fight for religious freedom and women’s rights at the Western Wall. As Women of the Wall, our central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.