Haredi demonstrators harass Women of Wall worshipers, tear their prayer books

Extremists snatch suitcase containing books belonging to progressive Jewish worshipers at Western Wall and rip them, claiming that Jewish law demands such contents be destroyed

Haredi extremists tare up prayer book of Women of the Wall worshippers at the Wetern Wall on June 11, 2021. (Screen capture/Facebook)
Haredi extremists tare up prayer book of Women of the Wall worshippers at the Wetern Wall on June 11, 2021. (Screen capture/Facebook)

Dozens of Haredi extremists harassed Women of the Wall worshipers at their monthly service at the Western Wall on Friday, snatching a suitcase carrying their prayer books and tearing out the pages.

Several of them shouted that the prayer books were “sifrei ha-minim” — “books of the sectarians,” which Jewish law orders be destroyed.

According to the worshipers, police officers and Western Wall ushers were at the scene, but did not prevent the Haredi demonstrators from tearing up the prayer books.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation which administers the holy site said their employees “did everything they could to separate [the sides] and calm things down.”

רגע לפני שאנחנו מתחילות בתפילה החודשית שלנו, חובה לצפות בסרטון הזה.חיות אדם – קוים לדמותם. המון זועם קורע עשרות סידורים של נשות הכותל.זו התוצאה של ההסתה מטעם הפוליטיקאים והרבנים של הציבור הזה

Posted by ‎נשות הכותל‎ on Thursday, June 10, 2021

“The Western Wall Heritage Foundation calls to keep the disputes away from the prayer plaza, and allow it to remain a place that unites,” the group added.

Women of the Wall — a pro-pluralism group that holds prayer services at the Western Wall on the first day of each month according to the Hebrew calendar, and which has spearheaded a campaign for equal prayer rights at the site — said that dozens of its prayer books had been destroyed at its service marking the start of the Hebrew month of Tamuz.

The group said in a statement that Friday’s incident was the “result of the incitement the Haredi leaders spread over the last few days.”

Tehila Friedman speaks at a demonstration against the lack of women in Israeli government’s decision-making process outside the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on November 23, 2020 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Former Blue and White MK Tehila Friedman asserted that the vandalism was not spontaneous, but rather organized in advance by Haredi leadership.

“During my first week in the Knesset, United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Pindros proudly told me that he had been in charge of organizing the protests against the women of the Western Wall for years,” she tweeted.

Friedman said the Western Wall Heritage Foundation should be stripped of the authority to manage the site.

Labor MK Gilad Kariv, a Reform rabbi and supporter of the group, said in a statement that the actions of the extremists at the Western Wall were the “fruits of incitement and hatred.”

He blamed Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, adding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who backed out of a compromise agreement to expand the pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall, known in Hebrew as the Kotel, was also to blame. (Among the coalition deals signed by the Yesh Atid party on Friday was a clause stating the new government set to be sworn in on Sunday will implement the plan to expand the pluralistic prayer pavilion.)

At the Women of the Wall service two months ago, Kariv used his parliamentary immunity to bring a Torah scroll to the Western Wall plaza, where he handed it over to the female worshipers, in violation of policy at the holy site.

Kariv’s actions drew condemnation from the Western Wall administration and ultra-Orthodox lawmakers, one of whom compared him to people who smuggle cellphones to convicted prisoners.

Women of the Wall worshipers sought to smuggle in a Torah scroll on Friday as well but it was confiscated by security guards upon entry.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which administers the site according to traditional Orthodox standards, only allows its own Torah scrolls to be used during prayer services. Although a 2013 court ruling found that women have the right to read from Torah scrolls during services, in practice there are no scrolls made available in the women’s section at the Kotel.

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