A tense stand-off in Jerusalem on Friday morning, while the Women of the Wall hold their first monthly prayer service at the Western Wall since a recent landmark ruling by the Jerusalem District Court that it is not a violation of “local custom” for women to wear prayer shawls at the Western Wall.
On Thursday, a prominent rabbi called for thousands of girls from ultra-Orthodox seminaries in Jerusalem to protest against the Women of the Wall. Ultra-Orthodox protesters have made a practice in recent months of taunting the women as they approach the Western Wall plaza on their way to the women’s section and jeering loudly at them during their prayer service from across the barrier separating the men and women’s sections.
Anticipating provocation by ultra-Orthodox individuals and groups, leaders of the movement have instructed supporters and activists planning to participate in the event not to “engage in conflict – verbal or physical” with any of the protesters.
The prayer service was planned following consultations with Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch and Knesset members from United Torah Judaism.
12:10 P.M. Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch denies allegation of involvement in protest, saying that he was not involved in organizing the protest and that the accusations are part of an incitement campaign by Women of the Wall. The only connection he had this week with the ultra-Orthodox leader Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman was meant to send a calming message. "I asked that rabbis and Knesset members don't come here," he said, and added: "I feel terrible for what happened here. I did not wish for it, did not expect it and I hope it would not repeat itself."
12:00 P.M. The heads of the Reform and Conservative movements will demand that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein investigate the involvement of rabbis on the government payroll in Friday’s demonstration.
11:34 A.M. Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus who has accompanied the Haredi protests against Women of the Wall for 24 years now, said on Friday that in the past there were more confrontational monthly services held at the site: "The highlight this time is that thousands of female seminary students got up at five in the morning flowed toward the Western Wall and came here to voice their protest," said Pindrus. "They didn't come to demonstrate, they came to pray."
Ultra-Orthodox protest Women of the Wall service
"The problem with Women of the Wall is the same problem any sane person would have if they heard that 20 yeshiva students had gotten up and entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to conduct a monthly prayer service. It is the same problem that every sane person in the State of Israel [would have] having seen people barbecuing on Holocaust Remembrance Day," he said. "This is an emotional issue, the Western Wall is a holy place, a place with a tradition of thousands of years and this is a provocation. I hope that those who see, will see the pain, will see everything that is going on and bring this thing to an end."
11:15 A.M. After concluding the prayer service with the singing of Israel's national anthem, "Hatikva," Anat Hoffman, chair of Women of the Wall said that the group would stand firm regarding their right to pray at the Western Wall Plaza. "We are continuing in the footsteps of the paratroopers who liberated the Western Wall," she said. Hoffman said that the group intends to continue coming to the central prayer plaza at the Western Wall. "This is it; the sole rule of the ultra-Orthodox is finished.
9:15 A.M. Police arrested three Haredi men suspected of disrupting the peace during morning prayers at the Western Wall.
9:02 A.M. "No one wanted it to come to this," says Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch says. "I ask everyone: please leave the Western Wall out of any dispute." Rabinovitch calls on Prime Minister Benajmin Netanyahu and Minister of Religious Affairs Naftali Bennett to find a solution that would be accepted be all factions. (Army Radio)
8:55 A.M. Ultra-Orthodox protesters are throwing rocks at the members of Women of the Wall and at their supporters outside the Western Wall.
8:35 A.M. "Fortunately, the event ended without any injured and at the end of the day we succeeded in escorting out the Women of the Wall," Jerusalem Police Commander Yossi Parienti said. "I very much hope that ahead of the next monthly prayer service, the people tasked with reaching an arrangement will achieve an one because it painful and a pity to see the Western Wall become a field of battle instead of a holy place of prayer."
8:20 A.M. As morning prayers come to a close, police form a human barricade to aid the group of women and their supporters out of the Western Wall plaza. Ultra-Orthodox protesters try to break through the police barricade.
8:00 A.M. Police prepare for further clashes after the morning prayers. (Army Radio)
7:50 A.M. Ultra-Orthodox girls say they were said to come the Western Wall, but some were not sure why. "We were told to come here," one said. "We thought that the women are praying at the men's plaza," another tells Haaretz.
7:30 A.M. Protesters throw water and water bottles at the group of women and their supporters.
7:10 A.M. Thousands of ultra-Orthodox men wearing prayer shawls, surround the members of Women of the Wall and their supporters, about two hundred men and women. Riot police forces trying to separate the two groups and allow the women to continue their prayer.
7:00 A.M. Ultra-Orthodox screaming "Nazis" at police as Women of the Wall try to make their way.
6:53 A.M. Riot police forces form a human chain, creating a barrier between members of Women of the Wall and ultra-Orthodox protesters.
6:50 A.M. Person arrested at Western Wall for throwing a trash bag at the police and a chair at Women of the Wall.
6:45 A.M. Western Wall swarming with ultra-Orthodox protestors, making it difficult for Women of the Wall to approach.
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