Women of the Wall Hold Second Peaceful Service at Kotel

Worshippers contend with sporadic shouting and heckling as large demonstration by ultra-Orthodox girls is called off.

For the second month in a row, Women of the Wall held its monthly prayer service at the Western Wall on Wednesday morning with relatively few disturbances.

A few dozen ultra-Orthodox teenage girls heckled the members of the pluralistic prayer group as they recited the Rosh Chodesh prayers, but they were eventually dispersed by police, who formed a human barricade around Women of the Wall.

Plans by ultra-Orthodox leaders to bring thousands of young seminary girls to the Western Wall to demonstrate against the women’s prayer group, as they’ve done in the past, were called off at the last moment. The decision was taken after the Western Wall rabbi, Shmuel Rabinowitz, urged both the ultra-Orthodox community and Women of the Wall to stay away from the site, citing tensions at the nearby Temple Mount.

He also noted in a statement that discussions were underway for a compromise, according to which Women of the Wall would move its monthly prayer service to a new egalitarian section on the other side of the Mughrabi Bridge. The new section is currently under construction.

About 100 women participated in the women’s prayer group service on Wednesday. In deference to the North African Jewish tradition of marking the month of Tevet by paying tribute to Jewish heroines, Women of the Wall used Sephardic melodies in some of their prayers, and groups of women were blessed under a canopy during the Torah reading service. The Torah portion was read from a Chumash rather than a scroll, due to a ban by Rabinowitz on bringing Torah scrolls into the women’s section.

Throughout the prayer service, several ultra-Orthodox men, standing on chairs on the other side of the barrier separating the men’s and women’s sections, cursed the women’s group. “Go to the barn, you cows,” shouted one. “Disgusting, disgusting, disgusting.”

One ultra-Orthodox man was detained by police after he tried to throw a chair at the women. Police confiscated whistles from two men who were using them to drown out the sounds of the women’s prayer.

Border policewomen clashed with the few dozen ultra-Orthodox girls trying to disrupt the prayers, who were goaded at times by a few older women. 

Tali Meir