We read in the Talmud that when the month of Adar comes, joy increases. Somehow, I don’t think the Ultra-Orthodox praying at the Kotel on Monday morning have learned that.
Every month the women’s prayer group Women of the Wall gathers together for the morning service at the Kotel to celebrate the mew month – which is traditionally a women’s holiday. This month, they had more than 150 women on the women’s side praying Shacharit and Hallel, and 50 male supporters on the other side of the partition. During the service, some Ultra-Orthodox men began to yell at the women, though they were quickly curtailed by police. (Quite a change from recent months in which leaders of the organization have been interrogated and arrested .) Shortly after these men were stopped a group of Ultra-Orthodox women shoved their way through the crowd heckling, pushing and spitting. The women screamed epithets and in one case, actually screamed the words of Hallel back at the Women of the Wall. Ironic, no? According to articles on Ynet and The Jerusalem Post they went so far as to call the women “Nazis” and tell them to “go marry preists.” Once again, the police stepped in and were able to protect the Women of the Wall from physical violence, but it did not stop the verbal assault. That only ended, when they left the Kotel to go to Robinson’s Arch for the Torah and Musaf service.
The same Ynet article notes that the increased presence of Israelis praying with Women of the Wall indicates that the people are unwilling to be pushed out by the Ultra-Orthodox minority. Meanwhile, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites of Israel condemns Women of the Wall’s prayer group, yet in the same breath he says that all sides have to be understanding of the complexity of the issue.
It appears to me that Rabbi Rabinowitz is issuing quite a double standard. How can he say that the Women of the Wall need to be respectful of the holiness of the wall, when they were the ones engaged in prayer? The women’s group was standing towards the back of the women’s section respectfully praying the morning service, according to all reports I have seen. They were using the holy site in a holy manner. It was the Ultra-Orthodox renegades who created the conflict by speaking out, yelling, spitting, etc.
Every month, I am outraged and amazed at the reaction to the Women of the Wall. I cannot comprehend how a group of women praying, on the women’s side, is disrespectful to the holy site, but others interrupting their own prayer, as well as the prayers of this group, to yell at these women is not. The hypocrisy from the Israeli Rabbinate astounds me. I can only hope and pray that someday women will be able to pray for peace in peace at the holy sites as every religious person desires.
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