LIVE BLOG: Women of the Wall marks 25th anniversary at Kotel
Monday's monthly service marks silver jubilee of prayer at Western Wall and continued legal battle; Bnei Akiva girls expected to protest.
Women of the Wall expected around 700 women to participate in the monthly Rosh Chodesh service Monday morning, as the group marked its 25th anniversary. The service began at 8 A.M., an hour later than usual.
The head of Bnei Akiva schools in Israel had been drawing fire for urging high-school girls in the religious Zionist educational network to join their ultra-Orthodox peers Monday morning in a protest against Women of the Wall.
Women of the Wall organizers prayer services for women at the Western Wall, where they pray out loud and wear prayer shawls and tefillin (phylacteries) - something the ultra-Orthodox strongly object to.
11:30 A.M: Women of the Wall celebrate on social media:
"Singing an emotional hatikvah israels natl anthen at the kotel. Am hofshi beartzenu"
"Shema yisrael! Women keep joining our prayer we are now takingnup over 3/4 of the womens section!"
10:30 A.M. Service ends peacefully for the first time in many months, with no arrests or acts of violence. Many participants continue on from Western Wall to a special seminar to mark the group's 25th anniversary.
9:33 A.M: Police estimated about 400-500 women are participating in Women of the Wall's service. They put the number of ultra-Orthodox seminary girls praying nearby at 300. In previous months, seminary girls had turned up in the thousands.
Police have forced worshippers on the men's side to shut off their loudspeakers on the grounds that due to their small numbers, there was no justification for amplification.
Among participants at the service are also founding members of Women of the Wall who reject the group's board decision to compromise with gov't on the possibility of moving service to a new egalitarian space.
9:22 A.M. Because the Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz rejected the group's request to read from a Torah at their service, Women of the Wall are holding up two Torah covers as a symbolic gesture.
A group of eight female cantors from the U.S. are participating in the service. Participants include about a hundred visitors from the U.S., including 20 rabbis who came especially to attend the 25th anniversary event.
9:02 A.M.: A five-women delegation from the comme il faut clothing company has come to express solidarity with the group. The Tel Aviv fashion designer last week unveiled a new line inspired by the feminist prayer group.
Women of the Wall Chairwoman Anat Hoffman estimated about 1,000 participants at today's service, including some 200 men standing above the women's section.
8:15 A.M.: Women of the wall are about to start their monthly prayer service at the Western Wall. Despite projections to the contrary, relatively few ultra-Orthodox seminary girls have shown up Monday morning to demonstrate a strong counter-presence to the pluralistic prayer group. There appears to be no evidence whatsoever that Bnei Akiva high school girls have heeded calls from the religious Zionist movement's leadership to join the ultra-Orthodox in protesting the feminist prayer group.
A larger than usual number of Women of the Wall supporters and activists are participating in Monday morning's service which marks the group's 25th anniversary. No unusual incidents have been reported thus far. Female border police are surrounding group as its members pray in the womens' section of wall.