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Women of the Wall group urges Netanyahu not to appoint Ben Gvir as police minister

Organization that holds controversial monthly women’s prayers at Western Wall says far-right MK is unfit for the job due to his repeated ‘harassment and incitement’ at the site

MK Itamar Ben Gvir seen arguing with police as Women of the Wall hold prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, November 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
File: MK Itamar Ben Gvir seen arguing with police as Women of the Wall hold Rosh Hodesh prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, November 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Women of the Wall, a religious feminist group, issued a letter to Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday and expressed its “deep concerns” over the possible appointment of far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir as the next public security minister, in charge of law enforcement, in his prospective government.

“Every now and then, Ben Gvir visits the Western Wall to harass and incite against the Women of the Wall and their supporters. He has participated in massive violent protests at the site that have endangered our lives and continue to pose a threat to us every month,” read the letter.

The group holds controversial monthly women’s prayers at the Western Wall in violation of the rules of the site’s main plaza, which bar women from carrying and reading from the Torah. Women of the Wall activists, therefore, try to smuggle Torah scrolls into the women’s section.

According to said rules, women are only allowed to read from the sacred scroll at a nearby site, known as Ezrat Yisrael or Robinson’s Arch.

The prayer sessions often lead to clashes with Orthodox activists at the site.

“We are deeply concerned that as public security minister, Ben Gvir will be able to expand his activity against Women of the Wall and the liberal movement and to allow violence to be directed against us,” the letter read.

“His appointment as public security minister will send an opposite message — one of lawlessness — that will target the Woman of the Wall and the Western Wall’s liberal movements,” it added.

Members of the Women of the Wall, Conservative and Reform Movements hold Rosh Hodesh prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Old City, March 4, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

For years Orthodox extremists have interrupted services led by Women of the Wall. Though the Women of the Wall are not meant to bring Torah scrolls to the Western Wall, the High Court of Justice has affirmed their right to hold prayer services at the holy site.

In June, following several violent incidents at the site, the Women of the Wall and the Masorti Movement, Israel’s equivalent to the American Conservative movement, called for then-incoming caretaker prime minister Yair Lapid to implement the so-called Western Wall compromise, a deal that has been on hold for over six years that was meant to give non-Orthodox Judaism representation in the management of the holy site.

However, as the Israeli public has recently elected its most right-wing and religious government date, the plan is unlikely to advance.

Judah Ari Gross and Tobias Siegal contributed to this report. 

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