Thousands of haredim prevented the Women of the Wall
from praying at their usual spot in the women's section at the Western Wall
Some 5,000 ultra-Orthodox
girls and dozens of haredi youths gathered at the site in an attempt to disrupt the monthly prayer. The women were then moved to a different location.
The youths shouted out hate slogans in order to drown out the women's prayer. Eggs and water bags were hurled at the women. Police detained two people for questioning.
Clashes at Kotel (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Leslie Zacks, director of the Women of the Wall organization, said in response, "Today police succumbed to haredi bullying and put us at the back of the bus again. Had we arrived without the police escort we would have been able to secure a spot near the Kotel as we've done for the past 24 years."
Reform movement leader Rabbi Gilad Kariv
condemned the acts. "Israel Police have violated the court ruling allowing the Women of the Wall to pray and have rewarded a small group of haredi provocateurs and rabbis engaged in spreading hatred," he said.
Moved to distant location (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Photo: Gil Yohanan
"Israel Police have forgotten that they have a duty to safeguard freedom of religion at the Western Wall and not lock up worshippers." Kariv called on the cabinet secretary and relevant ministers to intervene.
Jerusalem's acting mayor Yossi Deutsch (United Torah Judaism), who was among the protest's organizers, said: "The Western Wall is a place that unites the Jewish people. It's a shame that on the first day of the Month of Av a group of women would come here and divide the people."
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Recent months have seen police step up enforcement against Women of the Wall and detain several women who broke the High Court ruling in the case. This has sparked outrage among non-Orthodox Jewish factions who called on the government to intervene.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tasked Jewish Agency chief Natan Sharanksy with finding a solution that would be acceptable to all parties involved. Sharanksy has formed a plan to expand the prayer area by dozens of meters and divide it to three sections: one for men, one for women and one where all are free to worship.
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