Protest against Women of the Wall
Protest against Women of the WallPhoto: Israel Karlitz/News 24

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz protested the provocation by the Women of the Wall at the Kotel on Sunday morning, pointing to police protection of a women's group creating a provocation at the holy site, in the face of protests by observant worshipers.

The site's plaza and its environs were closed off to the general public for a period of time to ensure that the self-titled Women of the Wall group would be able to pray undisturbed. Close to two hundred women from the group gathered at pray at the Kotel after advertisements were placed in upscale neighborhoods urging women to come.

A protest against the group's presence came in the form of a call to the public that included song and prayer by men organized by rabbonim over the weekend. 

The general public and worshipers other than the Women of the Wall were blocked by police from reaching the Kotel to pray, a witness told Arutz Sheva.

A small group of men supporting Women of the Wall, also in attendance, also could not read from the Torah -- instead, they read from prayer books and interrupted the prayers to sing along with the ladies. 

"A lot of dialogue took place between supporters of both camps," said the witness, who asked not to be identified. The group was escorted under heavy police guard from the Western Wall Plaza on three Egged buses. Live Stream from the event was provided by Levaya Link - and powered by Midabrim Communications.

Thousands of hareidi-religious men had been urged to respond to a call published in Jewish newspapers for mass prayer at the Western Wall at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. The date is the first day of the Hebrew month of Tamuz, and the same time the female secularist worshipers hold their monthly Rosh Chodesh (head of the month) prayer at the holy site. The letter published by a wide range of hareidi-religious groups warned, however, that rabbinic leaders ruled only married men would be allowed to participate in the rally. No young yeshiva students were to be permitted to attend, in an effort to avoid violence and other provocations.

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz expressed his dismay that the women’s group was maintaining its insistence on their right to pray with men's garments, such as talleisim (prayer shawls), tefillin (phylacteries) and yarmulkas (men's head coverings). The group has continued to insist on carrying out these practices and others, such as praying as a quorum, that are, according to Jewish tradition, performed by men and thus not permitted to women at the holy site.

“Why should police have to prevent observant worshipers from entering the Kotel Plaza?” he asked. “How are barricaded restrooms and ritualistic deviations from tradition contributing to the sanctity of this holy site?”

Last week both of Israel’s Chief Rabbis – Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar – received threatening letters warning “If the Women of the Wall are not allowed to pray according to our ways and custom we will fight you with all measures and you will return home with 100 bodies of hareidi-religious Jews.” Included in the letter was a picture of a gun, captioned with, “We will no longer restrain ourselves. We will re-liberate the Western Wall.”

Knesset Member Moshe Gafni (UTJ) and Western Wall Rabbi Rabinowitz each also received a similar threat letter.

Rabbi Rabinowitz told reporters Sunday morning, “I trust all those involved will soon come to an acceptable compromise based on dialogue and common sense.”

Several weeks ago, Jewish Agency director Natan Scharansky suggested a compromise whereby the women's group would be provided with space to carry out their observances in the Kotel area called Robinson's Arch, but following a Jerusalem District Court ruling last month that upheld their right to continue their practices in the women's section of the Kotel plaza for the time being, the group rejected the suggestion as "irrelevant."