A prayer session of over 100 women in prayer shawls and tefillin passed relatively peacefully at Jerusalem’s Western Wall Friday, despite some jeering and spitting from Orthodox female protesters. The women, from the organization Women of the Wall, prayed in the main women’s section of the site, avoiding a nearby platform recently set aside for egalitarian prayer.
Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi of the Western Wall — which shores up the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site — on Wednesday urged ultra-Orthodox leaders to call on their female charges to refrain from demonstrating against the Women of the Wall.
He cited “the delicate security situation on the Temple Mount” and the recommendations of a special committee appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to find a solution for egalitarian prayer at the site, a source of consternation for many Orthodox worshipers.
Still, a group of Orthodox seminary girls did show up to demonstrate, with some of them spitting at members of the Women of the Wall, the group said in a tweet.
Girls have just begun spitting at us as we sing Hatikvah the national anthem
— Women of the Wall (@Womenofthewall) October 4, 2013
The women’s presence at the Wall coincided with a special prayer session for the health of the ailing Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a former chief rabbi and the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.
Women of the Wall arrive at the Western Wall to pray and read from the Torah at the beginning of each Jewish month, irking some worshipers with their prayer shawls and tefillin, which most Orthodox rabbis maintain should only be donned by men. In previous months, Israel’s Haredi rabbinic leadership sent thousands of women and girls to pray there during the services, filling the women’s section of the plaza and preventing the women from entering.
In August, the government unveiled a new platform for egalitarian prayers over the Robinson’s Arch area south of the main Western Wall plaza. But Women of the Wall’s Anat Hoffman harshly criticized the plan.
“The government of Israel decided as a ‘gift’ for Rosh Hashanah to solve the issue… by building this sunbathing deck,” she accused, charging that the site “is a way of building a second-rate Wall for second-rate Jews. I refuse to accept it.”