Jewish leaders in the UK have condemned the “unacceptable” scenes of violence and aggression at the Western Wall yesterday, saying it “does no credit to the Jewish people” as a whole.
Their sharp reaction followed scenes of clashes in Jerusalem between Charedi Jews and Jewish women whose right to egalitarian worship at the Kotel was agreed by the Israeli government earlier this year.
Board of Deputies’ President Jonathan Arkush said: “The undignified and sometimes violent scenes at Judaism’s holiest site do no credit to the Jewish people as a whole.”
He added: “The Israeli Government came to a very positive, historic compromise in January. This should be implemented with all due haste and all sides should respect the agreement.”
Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner said: “As our holiest site, the Kotel must be welcoming to all Jews. It is unacceptable that this non-violent protest was met with such a forceful response.”
She added: “The clashes demonstrate the urgent need for a space for pluralist and egalitarian prayer at the Kotel, guaranteed and protected by Israeli law.”
Protesters carrying Torah scrolls to the women’s section on Wednesday morning were met with pushing and shoving by Charedi worshipers who called then “Nazis,” “goy” (a derogatory term for Gentiles) and “whores”.
The scrolls were carried into the women’s section for use during the Women of the Wall’s monthly prayer service at the Wall as part of a protest march against restrictions on egalitarian worship at the site led by leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements from Israel and the United States.
Among the estimated 100 marchers were Rabbi Steven Wernick, chief executive officer of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center.
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation has prevented women from bringing Torah scrolls into the women’s section. The Women of the Wall group has held its monthly Rosh Chodesh prayer for the new Hebrew month in the women’s section for more than 25 years.
The Charedi protesters tried to prevent the marchers from bringing the scrolls to the women’s side of the Western Wall plaza. One photo showed a black-clad Charedi woman punching a worshipper from Women of the Wall.
Protesters, many of whom were young boys, also blew loud whistles to disrupt the service and shouted epithets at the women.
Photos by: JINIPIX