Western Wall Prayer Protest Turns Violent

Haredi Jews attack women worshippers in mixed-gender prayer at the Western Wall.

The Western Wall in Jerusalem is the holiest of Jewish sites. It is sacred because it is the remnant of the remaining wall that once supported and enclosed the Second Jewish Temple by Herod the Great. The public plaza located at the Western Wall, last Thursday, June 16, saw the Haredi Jews, also known as ultra-Orthodox Jews, disrupting a government-sanctioned mixed-gender prayer service held by the Reform and Conservative Jews.

Western Wall Prayer Protest Turns Violent[/tweetthis]

The Reform and Conservative Jewish worshippers were shoved, pushed, and spat upon by the Haredi Jews. A few of the Haredi Jews, in order to avoid looking at the women worshippers while pushing them, covered their faces with their hats. There were a dozen uniformed policemen present at the scene. However, they did not intervene, they just looked on. The Reform and Conservative Jews refrained from responding to the abuse.

The prayer service was organized by the Reform and Conservative Jews in order to protest the failure of the implementation of Israeli government's Cabinet decision about turning the Robinson’s Arch (a monumental staircase that once stood at the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount) into the first official egalitarian prayer place of Israel, where all Jews could pray, both men and women. It was last January that the Cabinet decision was taken.

It took almost three years of negotiation between the government of Israel and the Israeli and the American representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements, as well as the North America and Women of the Wall Jewish Federations, to reach the agreement to fund and enlarge the prayer area. The decision was frozen by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under pressure from Haredi lawmakers in his coalition government.

When Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the Haredi Rabbi who supervises the Western Wall, opposed the prayer service, he was informed by the Ministry of Religious Services that he has no jurisdiction to prevent the service from happening in the plaza.

According to the president of the Reform movement in Israel, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the prayer service was not aimed as a protest against the Haredi Jews, but against the government. He called the inaction from the police as “outrageous.” He said that they might have gotten instruction from Rabbi Rabinowitz or the high command not to interfere.

American Conservative rabbi, Rabbi Loren Sykes, who has been part of the protest, was cursed and spat upon during the service. Someone took his yarmulke and another said he should have been killed during the holocaust. According to him, there are Jews out there who cannot respect another Jew's opinions.

Conservative rabbi and pluralism activist Rabbi Andrew Sacks, said they are prompted to take action because of the apparent inability of the prime minister's office to do the right thing. The non-Orthodox Jews, both in the U.S. and Israel have been very patient, however, as of now, they are at their breaking point.


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