Police: Women of the Wall to blame for Western Wall clashes

Police contradict feminist group's claim it was attacked by mob of radical haredim, says Women of the Wall made 'deliberate provocation'.

David Rosenberg ,

Women of the Wall at Kotel Friday morning
Women of the Wall at Kotel Friday morning
Hadas Parush, Flash90

Israeli police contradicted claims by a feminist group Friday, saying activists from the group were to blame for clashes with Orthodox worshippers at the Western Wall after the made ‘deliberate provocations’.

Some 100 activists from the Women of the Wall group marked the movement’s 30th anniversary with an expanded prayer service at the Western Wall Friday morning.

The Women of the Wall, a controversial feminist movement led by activist Anat Hoffman, has held monthly non-traditional prayer services in the main Western Wall plaza for decades – despite access to a dedicated prayer space for egalitarian services.

The non-traditional prayer services in the main plaza, which violate the regulations of the local religious authority as well as Israeli law, regularly draw condemnation both from worshippers at the site, and the Western Wall’s chief rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch.

On Friday, some 20,000 worshippers gathered at the Western Wall for the monthly Rosh Hodesh prayer services.

During the services, some 100 Women of the Wall activists attempted to hold a non-traditional service in the middle of the Western Wall main plaza.

Protests ensued, and police eventually escorted the Women of the Wall activists from the site.

Women of the Wall activists described the incident as a “violent attack” by “thousands of Ultra-Orthodox people”.

“Thousands of ultra-Orthodox individuals surrounded the women’s prayer group, screaming epithets, pushing, and hitting women in order to disturb the prayer service. Due to the police’s negligence, two women were sent to receive medical treatment,” the group said in a statement.

But later on Friday, Israeli police said the blamed lay with the activists, rather than the Orthodox worshippers, stating that the Women of the Wall had gone out of their way to provoke the worshippers.

“During the Rosh Hodesh prayers held Friday morning in the Western Wall Plaza, some of the Women of the Wall [activists] who came to the central prayer plaza, apparently with the intention of sparking clashes and creating provocations, in violation of the orders of ushers and police that they pray in the women’s section designated for them.”

Police also said that despite claims by the Women of the Wall that they were removed from the main plaza by police, the activists in fact requested a police escort to take them to the prayer space designated for egalitarian prayer.

“In response to the request of the Women of the Wall, they were escorted by officers to the [egalitarian] prayer section, where they completed their prayers without incident.”

Authorities added that one haredi protester was arrested during the incident.




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