Thousands of Jews gathered in the Western Wall Plaza Friday morning for the Rosh Hodesh (New Month) prayers, marking the beginning of the Hebrew month of Av, kicking off the traditional mourning period culminating in the 9th of Av, which marks the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem.
While worshippers packed the plaza Friday, a small group of left-wing activists, known as the “Women of the Wall”, held a mixed-gender prayer service in the main plaza, violating instructions by authorities, who had ordered the group to remain in a special prayer space designated for non-traditional services.
The holy site is divided into gender-separate prayer spaces, with a special egalitarian, mixed-gender space allotted to non-Orthodox groups towards the southern end of the Western Wall.
Despite this, and in defiance of regulations by Israel Police and the state body which manages the Western Wall Plaza, the “Women of the Wall” have held their own monthly Rosh Hodesh prayer services in the main plaza, outside of the prayer space designated for mixed-gender services.
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which manages the site, condemned the Women of the Wall on Friday, accusing them of disrupting the prayer services by refusing to use the space allotted for non-traditional services.
“The Foundation made great efforts to implement during this interim period the instructions of the Attorney General and the Supreme Court, though this group [Women of the Wall] has refused to adhere to the instructions given by representatives of the Foundation.”
“This incident saddens us, and we call on all sides to respect the sanctity of the Western Wall, and the rules regarding prayer in the plaza.”