With Rosh Chodesh Tevet (the Jewish New Month) in just a few days’ time, tensions around the issue of the Kotel Hama’aravi (Western Wall) are rising again, and in order to dispel any doubt about their intentions, the Women of the Wall announced on Thursday that they intend to hold their monthly prayer session, as is their long-standing custom, on Sunday morning.
Ever since the events of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, when MK Gilad Kariv, a Reform clergyman, entered the women’s section of the Kotel Plaza with a Torah scroll in hand and gave it to the Women of the Wall for use during their service, haredi Knesset members have been alert to any sign that Kariv will be repeating his performance on a future occasion, vowing to block him, physically if necessary, if he again attempts to hand the feminist group a Torah scroll. In doing so, Kariv abused his parliamentary immunity as an MK and contravened clear guidelines transmitted to him by the Justice Ministry. A month later, he was persuaded by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to stay away from the Kotel Hama’aravi in order to avoid inflaming tensions. Accordingly, haredi MKs also stayed away while the Women of the Wall went ahead with their usual service, attended by the usual few dozen women they attract.
It is as yet unclear what will happen next Sunday; for their part, haredi MKs have made it clear that if Kariv shows up, they will also be there in order to protect the status quo at the holy site.
On Wednesday, President Herzog met with representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements, as well as with MK Gilad Kariv, and in the course of their discussion he requested of them that they make an effort to calm the tone of their discourse and do what they can to reduce tensions. Herzog condemned all displays of violence, no matter from what sector, and appealed for unity.
Responding to the meeting, the Women of the Wall issued a statement saying, “We thank the President of the State for meeting with us and for his commitment to this issue. Calls for violence by leaders of the haredi community are extremely worrying. The government of Israel must implement the Kotel Compromise Plan as soon as possible.”