Women of the Wall
Women of the WallPhoto: Corinna Kern/Flash90

Hundreds of haredi and religious women signed a petition calling on Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to put an end to the Women of the Wall's Rosh Chodesh prayers.

For years, the Women of the Wall have demanded they be allowed to hold alternative, non-traditional services. Five years ago, Israel built an area allotted for mixed-gender prayer and for the Reform and Conservative movements to pray as they wish, but the Women of the Wall insist they should be allowed to pray their way in the main plaza.

The monthly Women of the Wall prayers have led to clashes between the feminist group and other worshippers, who object to the non-Orthodox nature of the prayers.

Now, a new petition calls on Deri to stop the Women of the Wall ahead of their scheduled prayers this Sunday. According to the petition, "this extremist group blatantly violates the custom of the place, which all the people of the Wall respect, and provokes quarrels in the holy space."

"While they are in the square, the prayer of the hundreds and thousands of women who come to pray with the help of women is critically disturbed."

"When the women of the provocation dance, sing loudly, clap their hands and protest and riot in the holy place," the petition continued, "It is very difficult to hear the cantor or to concentrate on prayer in the face of the contempt of the holy place."

Noting that Deri's Shas party controls the Rabbinate, which opposes Women of the Wall, the petition asked him to "exercise your authority and act to remove the provocateurs from the Western Wall and allow the masses who pray to pray there with concentration and holiness."

Worshippers have accused Women of the Wall in the past of harassing them and decry the media circus their monthly prayers bring with them.

In June Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered the Women of the Wall to pray only in the special area designated by the police and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

The order was given following a petition by the Foundation and the police in response to disturbances which took place on Rosh Chodesh in recent months. If the Women of the Wall disobey the directive, the police have the authority to remove them from the Western Wall, ruled Mandelblit.