Women of the Wall
Women of the WallIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee held a heated debate Tuesday over the question of the Women of the Wall, a group of women who are seeking to conduct prayer services at the Kotel (Western Wall) in defiance of the customs and traditional Orthodox services upheld at the holy site.

MK Menachem Eliezer Moses of the hareidi-religious Yahadut Hatorah (United Torah Judaism) party expressed strong opposition.

“Each month the Women of the Wall come back and hold another bizarre ritual, with a few dozen participants accompanied by dozens of media outlets and a huge police force,” he said. “What does this bizarre group have to do with the holiness of the Western Wall?”

“Real Judaism maintained and protected the Western Wall and its holiness for 3,000 years, and you ‘Women of the Wall’ are presenting a fake front of false Judaism and prayer,” he accused.

Several representatives of the Women of the Wall group called out criticism of Moses’ words. “You yell and make so much noise that one could think the state’s serious problems were solved,” he responded. “Just a little while ago we heard about the terrorist murder in Samaria of a father of five children. We have problems much more serious than your imaginary problems.”

MK Moses concluded, “I call on the government to continue to prohibit this attempt on their part to provoke.”

The state has set aside prayer space for non-orthodox prayer at Robinson’s Arch, which, like the Western Wall, is part of the retaining wall around the Temple Mount. However, Women of the Wall says the space does not meet their needs and has resumed holding public prayers at the Western Wall, leaving the government to try to find a compromise between the group’s demands and those of regular worshipers at the holy site, many of whom have said they find the non-orthodox prayers offensive and distracting.

Public prayers are not normally held on the women’s side of the Western Wall in accordance with Jewish tradition.

Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz has called to remove the group, which he accused of coming in order to “fan the flames of hatred and divisiveness.” The group also took heat following an interview that its leader, Anat Hoffman, gave on BBC television in which she stated that her ultimate goal is to have the Conservative and Reform movements accepted as valid in Israel for marriages, conversions and other issues that are officially dealt with in accordance with halakha.