Liberal Jewish women activists blocked at Western Wall

JERUSALEM Mon Jul 8, 2013 8:28am EDT

A member of ''Women of the Wall'' group wears a prayer shawl and Tefillin, leather straps and boxes containing sacred parchments, that Orthodox law says only men should don, during a monthly prayer session at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City May 10, 2013. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

A member of ''Women of the Wall'' group wears a prayer shawl and Tefillin, leather straps and boxes containing sacred parchments, that Orthodox law says only men should don, during a monthly prayer session at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City May 10, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Amir Cohen

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Several thousand ultra-Orthodox protesters effectively blocked Jewish women activists campaigning for equal worship rights at the Western Wall from holding a monthly prayer session on Monday at the holy site.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said members and supporters of the Women of the Wall group were escorted by police to a spot a short distance from the Western Wall "to make sure there would be no incidents".

A spokeswoman for the movement, which is challenging the Orthodox monopoly over rites at the Western Wall, called the incident a setback after a court decided in April the women could legally don prayer shawls that Orthodox ritual says are meant for men only.

Prayer rites at the site, revered by Jews as a perimeter wall of the Biblical Temple, are part of a long struggle between Israel's secular majority and ultra-Orthodox minority over lifestyle in the Jewish state, where institutions such as marriage, divorce and burial are controlled by rabbis.

Women pray at a separate section, set apart from men. Women of the Wall want to be able to practice the rituals reserved by Orthodox law for men - such as wearing prayer shawls and reading out loud from the Torah, or holy scriptures - in their section.

"It's the first time in 25 years we could not reach the plaza," of the wall, Shira Pruce, a group spokeswoman said. "They (police) held up back. It's our right to go there."

The 300 activists instead prayed some 50 meters (yards) from the Western Wall. Some of the ultra-Orthodox protesters, who included women, threw eggs at the group, and cursed them and police. Rosenfeld said four of the ultra-Orthodox demonstrators were arrested.

Tensions were running high at the Western Wall, a day after the Israeli cabinet approved a draft law to abolish wholesale military draft exemptions for Jewish seminary students.

"We hope soldiers will die," one ultra-Orthodox youth shouted at a member of the paramilitary border police trying to block him from entering the Western Wall plaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked former cabinet minister and Jewish leader Natan Sharansky to seek a compromise to permit the Women of the Wall to hold prayers without exacerbating tensions with the ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Sharansky has proposed a formula to widen a separate zone at the Western Wall once designated for egalitarian prayer, a suggestion neither side nor the government has yet embraced.

Also spurring Israel's drive to resolve the dispute is the support for the Women of the Wall movement in the United States in the influential Conservative and Reform movements of Judaism, which do not adhere to the Orthodox practice of gender separation in prayer.

Shmuel Rabinowitz, an Orthodox rabbi officially in charge of the Western Wall, told Reuters he objected to the activists trying to "impose their own customs" at the Western Wall, but voiced support for government efforts to seek a compromise.

"The Western Wall should be a unifying site. Everyone needs to give in a little," he said.

(Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Alison Williams)

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Comments (11)
mark24 wrote:
Why didn’t Reuters stick to it’s usual policy of distoerting facts and reporting biased half truths? instead they chose to spew a full article of blatant lies straight out of the PR machine of a fringe movement with below 1% support in Israel? now here are some facts.
1. “Some of the ultra-Orthodox protesters, who included women…” wow! how wrong can you get the entire story line? actually today’s demonstration was a peaceful woman only gathering of prayer. Police estimates between 5-7 thousand women. not a single woman was arrested or taken into custody.
2. The western wall has never been an area of tension between religious and secular Israelis. Period. everyone comes, prays, and feels an emotional connection. The issue here is just an insignificant handful of women who belong to the reform movement (which has previously declared that the western wall carries no significance to them)that have an agenda to “reform” the wall, having absolutely zero respect for the hundreds of thousands of the regular visitors to the holy site, men and women alike.
3. “Sharansky has proposed a formula to widen a separate zone at the Western Wall once designated for egalitarian prayer, a suggestion neither side nor the government has yet embraced.” yet another lie. in fact the compromise was warmly embraced both in the government as in in all religious circles, but was rejected, as was every proposal, compromise or deal by those that have one goal. Provocation.
The list goes on, and as someone very familiar with the situation I can say pretty confidently that those crazy “quotes” from those supposedly “Haredy men” are fabricated lies consistent with the rest of this “news piece”
I demand an immediate correction and apology from the Reuters Organisation.

Jul 08, 2013 10:23am EDT  --  Report as abuse
momjones wrote:
Think Mark doth protest too much. Freedom of the press… Reporting this incident as it happened according to police records plainly demonstrates blatant descrimination. Question is, why does a woman praying pose a threat to any man? Answer, when they BELIEVE they dominate her. The world over, women have just got to rise up against this aggression.

Jul 08, 2013 11:12am EDT  --  Report as abuse
randburg100 wrote:
mark24 has his knickers in twist – all the article is about is a bunch of religious harridans versus a bunch of religious maniac guys with funny hats, big beards & hair in ponytails….hardly news worthy. After all..religions are little more than fairy stories about one/several magic pixie(s) who no one has ever seen….

Then to top off the stupidity…one bunch of religious nuts tries to slaughter another bunch of religious nuts…who have been conned by a different version of the same fairy story….

Jul 08, 2013 12:55pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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