Women of the Wall hold Rosh Chodesh services at Kotel, heckled by Haredi protestors

November 7, 2021 by Gil Tanenbaum - TPS
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The Women of the Wall held a prayer service at the Western Wall Plaza, the Kotel, Friday morning in celebration of Rosh Chodesh, the minor Jewish holiday held on the first day of the new Hebrew month. Friday is the first day of the month of Kislev.

Women of the Wall harassed by ultra-orthodox protestors as they hold a prayer service for the holiday of the new month – Rosh Chodesh – at the Kotel Plaza in Jerusalem. The group allows women to hold Torah scrolls and participate equally in prayers and the orthodox oppose this, especially at the Kotel. Police added extra security to prevent violence. Photos by Shalev Shalom/TPS

Police fended off Haredi protestors, avoiding a dangerous clash.

The group traditionally holds a mixed prayer service at the Kotel, where women are included and can hold Tora scrolls and read from the Tora, every month on Rosh Chodesh. But the orthodox prohibit such participation by women in prayer services and the Kotel is under the supervision of an orthodox rabbi.

While orthodox protestors disrupted the Women of the Wall with screaming and chanting, the event went without violence, primarily because of the heightened police presence. But the members of the group were clearly upset and disappointed at having to once again deal with such strong opposition to their practice of Judaism.

Ronit Boytner is a member of the board of Women of the Wall. She attended the Services. Boytner told TPS, “We are trying already for 32 years to pray at the Kotel. All we want is to be able to follow our custom and be able to read from the Tora on Rosh Chodesh.”

She went on to describe the idea that authorities prevent women from entering the Kotel Plaza with a Tora as the most trivial issue facing the people of Israel today. Boytner explained that their group is not just Reform or Conservative, but that it has many orthodox people affiliated with it as well.

“We are not here to cause a provocation,” said Boytner. “We just want to read from the Tora on Rosh Chodesh.”

The police were prepared for an outbreak of violence and assigned extra security to the Kotel Plaza. This was because a member of the Knesset, Gilad Kariv, was expected to attend the service. Kariv, a member of the Labor Party, is a Reform rabbi and supports the cause of the Women of the Wall. In the past, MK Kariv took advantage of his parliamentary immunity to bring in a Tora and provide it to the worshipers, which is against the law.

Police keep protestors away from the Women of the Wall    Video: TPS

Government officials were concerned that this could lead to violence if the Haredim who came out in protest saw this happen. Thursday night, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made a personal plea to Kariv to reconsider his decision to attend the services.

Then, President of Israel Isaac Herzog made a similar plea. He asked Knesset not to attend prayers at the Western Wall members in order to “prevent unnecessary wrestling and free hatred among elected officials in front of the remains of our temple.”

President Herzog told MK Kariv that he has instructed the director general of the President’s House, Eyal Shuiki, to open talks next week with all parties involved in the issue of prayer at the Western Wall plaza. He said that they would to hear the positions of the various groups and try to find possible solutions to the crisis.

Arresting a protestor

The President stated, “The possibility of elected officials confronting in the plaza of the Temple Mount, the holiest place for Judaism and the place to which all the Jews in the world are drawn, is deeply ingrained in me, especially when we remember how the conflict ended about two thousand years ago. The haters of Israel only long for such images and I call on everyone to exercise restraint and mutual respect in the hope of finding paths of peace in our people. ”

Gilad Kariv later announced that he would honour the President’s request.

He released a statement thanking the President for his efforts to prevent an “unprecedented confrontation” in the Western Wall plaza, and for his willingness to take action to advance the long-standing dispute resolution.

“Once again, it has been proven that the Western Wall Women’s Organization and the non-Orthodox movements are the party interested in compromising the Western Wall issue, and this is the message we will bring to a meeting with the president,” declared Kariv.

He pledged to continue to stand by the women of the Western Wall, and work to “implement the layout of the Western Wall in its entirety, which is a historic and necessary compromise. This outline is in line with the values of the coalition and the government, which seek to bring about a rift in the divisions in Israeli society and the Jewish people, and we expect significant progress in its implementation in the coming months.”

Police take action

Kariv also lambasted opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu for his involvement in the controversy on the side of the Haredim calling it “a cynical exploitation of the controversy and a direct continuation of his irresponsible conduct since he froze the Western Wall layout in 2017.”

Aryeh Deri, leader of the Haredi opposition Shas Party, thanked the President, while also taking the opportunity to criticize the Women of the Wall and to accuse them of trying to “desecrate” the Jewish faith.

Deri had called on his supporters to come out and protest against the Women of the Wall.

Deri Tweeted, “I thank President Yitzhak Herzog for his efforts to preserve the sanctity of the Western Wall – the remnant of our Temple. On the eve of Rosh Chodesh Kislev, in which the Jewish people mark the victory of light over darkness, the Shas movement will continue to fight with all its might against those who want to desecrate the sanctity of the Western Wall, and to damage the Jewish identity of the state.”


2 Responses to “Women of the Wall hold Rosh Chodesh services at Kotel, heckled by Haredi protestors”

    As we approach Chanuka, it is appropriate to reflect that the WOW and their ilk would have stood 2000 years ago with the acculturated Hellenists who were happy to water down Judaism to suit their “enlightened” philosophies, while those valiant souls who protest this compromising of authentic Jewish values are the embodiment of the Maccabees of old!

  2. Paul Winter says:

    The Western Wall is a public space not an orthodox synagogue. Every Jew, of whatever strand of Judaism and of whichever sex, should be able to pray there unhindered. It is somewhat ironic that the haredi, who largely shun service in the IDF, should display militancy against the Women of the Wall.

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