Press Release 19 December 2017 Women of the Wall’s prayer leader and its Executive Director attacked after prayer at the Western Wall

200 Women of the Wall supporters conducted Rosh Hodesh Tevet prayer under escalated incitement and harassment. WOW worshipers were attacked physically and verbally by ultra-Orthodox women and teens who shoved, spit and cursed.

From the very beginning of the prayer, young girls and women whistled, shouted profanities and even death threats at WOW worshipers. WOW’s attempts to involve Western Wall Heritage guards were unsuccessful. Police remained aloof, despite repeated complaints by WOW worshipers.

The same group of women and teens with faces covered in scarves physically attacked a WOW prayer leader, and when WOW Executive Director tried to protect her, one of the women twisted her arm. The physical assault was witnessed by police officers. Harassers then attacked bystanders.

WOW is filing official police complaints following these incidents.

This morning’s prayer, welcoming the month of Tevet, marks 29 years of Women of the Wall prayers and activity. A young woman celebrated her Bat Mitzvah by reading from a Torah scroll. Joining WOW were members of Noam, the Masorti Movement’s youth group.

Now more than ever, WOW is determined to dispel the darkness of discrimination with the light of equality.

WOW Chairperson, Anat Hoffman: “The attacks today on WOW’s leadership must disturb everyone who cares about Israel. Israeli law is very clear about how serious is an offense on freedom of religious expression. So serious, it carries a 3-5 years of imprisonment. The law must be implemented now in Israel’s capital.”

WOW Executive Director, Lesley Sachs: “Being physically attacked is extremely difficult. We experience violence and police apathy every month. It’s due to this apathy that violence is escalating.”

WOW Board Member and Legal Advisor, Attorney Riki Shapira-Rosenberg: “Despite repeated requests the police did nothing to stop harassment in offenses violating the right to worship which carry long prison sentences. As a result, violence escalated and led to a physical attack on two Women of the Wall.”

About Women of the Wall:

WOW is a group of religious women from all denominations (Orthodox, Conservative and Reform) who pray at the Western Wall every “Rosh Hodesh” (beginning of the month) and have been fighting for 28 years for equal rights for women in praying at the Western Wall. The group wishes to pray according to Jewish Law (Halacha), in a group and out loud; to read from a Torah scroll; and to put on tefillin and tallit, at the section known as the Women’s Section of the Western Wall.

Following a 3-year-negotiation, the Kotel Agreement was approved in government on January 31, 2016, by a 15 to 5 majority. The agreement stated that a third section be established, designated for Women of the Wall and pluralistic movements’ prayers. The agreement was voided by a cabinet vote on June 25th, 2017. The Supreme Court will be hearing the case in an expanded panel.

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