Over fifty women gathered for the monthly prayer this morning, where they were met by a violent group of protesters and a passive police force.
Women of the Wall were greeted with curses such as “Daesh will take care of you!” “You need to be exterminated like cockroaches!” “Burn alive!” “Whores!” as they prepared to pray.
In the women’s section, about ten ultra-Orthodox hecklers deployed loud whistles to disrupt the traditional prayer and hit, punched and kicked members of Women of the Wall. In another instance of blatant disregard for the law, they displayed large signs bearing offensive messages at this most holy of places.
A group of yeshiva students jostled and harassed men who came to support Women of the Wall.
In defiance of numerous pleas from both men and women who asked police to intervene, officers remained indifferent, leaning on the walls, observing the melee and dismissing the distressed appeals.
Anat Hoffman, Chair of Women of the Wall, said “I don’t remember such a violent atmosphere here ever. This is a dangerous escalation and we feel completely unprotected.”
The brazen indifference of the police serves principally to encourage the violent activists and borders on incitement.
This summer is proving arid and harsh for Jewish women in Israel. Between Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu’s duplicity regarding women’s prayer at the Western Wall, his government’s attack on the use of public ritual baths by non-Orthodox women and vulgar incitement by Haredi leaders, women in Israel have their backs to the wall.
As Women of the Wall were preparing for Rosh Hodesh Av, ultra-Orthodox Rabbi David Yosef gave a speech in which he referred to Women of the Wall as “whores.” This a repugnant attack on the multi-denominational women’s prayer group that would have roused an outraged reaction had it taken place in any other country on earth provoked no repudiation from the government.
Women of the Wall call on Minister of Interior Security Gilad Erdan and Israel Police chief Ronny Alsheikh to act immediately to prevent a repeat of today’s violence next month. Women of the Wall demand that Erdan and Alsheikh probe into the negligence of police at the Kotel this morning.
Women of the Wall Executive Director Lesley Sachs, who was herself assaulted while praying, said “the police abandoned their responsibility to protect citizens from physical violence and verbal abuse. They exercise their authority only when it comes to stopping women who pray with Torah scrolls. It was unbearable to endure the constant abuse this morning, and watch the police stand by.”
On Women of the Wall:
For 27 years Women of the Wall have led the struggle for women’s right to pray at the Western Wall with tallit, tefillin and the Torah at the Western Wall. After the arrests and detentions of 50 women at the Kotel, and thanks to the work of activists all over the world, in 2013 a Jerusalem District Court judge ruled that Women of the Wall may pray at the holy site, each woman according to her tradition. Unfortunately, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Administrator of the Western Wall and Holy Places implemented regulations preventing women from accessing Torah scrolls at the Western Wall. In 2016, spurred on by the insistence of Women of the Wall, partners and activists worldwide, the Israeli government approved a plan to build a third, pluralist section at the Western Wall. The execution of this plan may take some time and until its completion, Women of the Wall continue to pray in the women’s section of the Western Wall, remaining steadfast in the fight for women’s rights to read from the Torah at the Kotel.