Hundreds, if not thousands, of high school age girls affiliated with the Sefardi haredi Shas political party were bused in from all over Israel and jammed the women’s prayer section of the Kotel (Western Wall) this morning, heckling, taunting, and cursing members of Women of the Wall (WoW) and throwing toilet paper on the WoW members as they tried to pray. The Sefardi girls encircled WoW, heaping insults and jeers at them from all sides.
Hundreds Of Sefardi Girls Hurl Insults, Toilet Paper, Spit On Women Of The Wall
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Hundreds, if not thousands, of high school age girls affiliated with the Sefardi haredi Shas political party were bused in from all over Israel and jammed the women’s prayer section of the Kotel (Western Wall) this morning, heckling, taunting, and cursing members of Women of the Wall (WoW) and throwing toilet paper on the WoW members as they tried to pray, Ha'aretz reported. The Sefardi girls encircled WoW, heaping insults and jeers at them from all sides.
The girls, who came unsupervised by any adults in chartered buses from all over the country, were supposed to be there to pray for the recovery of 93-year-old Sefardi haredi leader and Shas Party founder Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who has been hospitalized for almost two weeks in serious condition.
Haredi Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the state’s official rabbi of the Western Wall, issued a statement earlier this week pleading with haredim not to confront WoW at their Friday Rosh Hodesh prayers, calling previous confrontations the “greatest desecration of the name of God.”
But Rabinovitch also called WoW a “provocation.”
Police allowed WoW to pray in the women’s prayer section at the main Kotel for the first time in several months, breaking a pattern of forcing the WoW to pray in the far rear of the Kotel plaza adjacent to the bathrooms in defiance of a Jerusalem District Court ruling that mandates police to allow WoW access to the Kotel proper.
But even though the police had suddenly decided to follow the law and allow WoW real Kotel access, they did not enforce existing laws that prohibit the type of disturbances the Sefardi girls carried out, and no Sefardi girls were arrested – even though the court had sharply chastised police for their refusal to arrest haredim who harass WoW or riot against the group.
“You are garbage.” “You are wicked.” “You are men, not women. Why don’t you grow beards and move over to the men’s section?” “You should burn,” the Sefardi girls shouted at WoW.
Whenever WoW members prayed out loud, the Sefardi girls would shout and jeer to try to drown them out.
After Psalms recital for Rabbi Yosef was completed, some of the Sefardi girls began throwing pieces of toilet paper at WoW members and spitting on them.
Police did nothing to stop them and no arrests were made.
A Ha’aretz reporter heard a Sefardi girl say to her friends, “Let’s stone them.” She also heard one haredi woman say to another haredi woman, “Just look at [the WoW members]. They’re not Jewish. Those aren’t Jewish faces. They’re goyim [non-Jews].”
About a dozen policewomen – a very small number of police compared to previous incidents and all-female for the first time – formed a tight circle around WoW to protect them from the huge mob of jeering haredim.
“You don’t need to do that. Who would even want to touch them? They’re impure,” a haredi woman reportedly told police.
“I don’t recall that we were ever cursed like this before or that the hatred toward us was ever so blatant,” Lesley Sacks, the executive director of Women of the Wall, told Haaretz.
Meanwhile, Ha’aretz also published a totally unsourced story that alleges a split exists in WoW, with the majority working to achieve and then accept a modified version of a government compromise that would see WoW’s prayers relegated to the new egalitarian prayer area at Robinson’s Arch, away from the traditional Kotel area. This faction is allegedly demanding that WoW’s leader, Anat Hoffman, be named head of the organization that will administer that new egalitarian prayer area. That new area would receive government funding equal to the traditional Kotel and would physically extend all the way to the existing Kotel prayer area – something that would involve removing an existing ramp to the Temple Mount complex, a move that is strongly opposed by the Israel Antiquities Authority (and, most likely, the Muslim Waqf that runs the Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount, Jordan and Israeli security officials).
This modified version appears to closely mimic a High Court of Justice ruling issued a decade ago that successive Israeli governments have not upheld, leading to the Jerusalem District Court ruling of several months ago that favored WoW.
According that completely unsourced Ha’aretz report, the other, smaller WoW faction – made up largely of Orthodox women – is holding out for prayer in the women’s section of the main Kotel prayer area.
The source of that Ha’aretz report appears to be outside of WoW, and could easily be either the Kotel’s haredi rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovitch, or a government source close to Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett or Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky. The report itself is probably meant to divide WoW now and set the table to marginalize it once the government’s compromise plan is announced and Hoffman is not named the head of the egalitarian area.
However, Ha'aretz reports that a possible explanation for WoW's alleged change of position its fear of "a deal being struck between U.S. Conservative and Reform movements without consulting them."
But Hoffman is a leader of the Reform Movement and it is unlikely the movement would break with her.
FailedMessiah.com has previously reported that the Conservative Movement has defacto control over the Robinson's Arch egalitarian prayer area and that it has been very sympathetic to government plans to enhance it at the expense of WoW.
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the head of the Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, told FailedMessiah.com earlier this week that it continues to strongly back WoW.
But Schonfeld also pointed out that egalitarian movements like her’s need an egalitarian prayer space – something that WoW does not need.
She insisted that she had not spoken to Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett about the recent erection of a prayer platform for egalitarian prayer at Robinson’s Arch and was as surprised as anyone else when Bennett unilaterally had it built and then touted it as a solution to the Kotel crisis caused by WoW’s prayers and the court’s decision upholding WoW’s right to pray at the Kotel as they see fit.
She also took issue with strong language previously used by FailedMessiah.com to describe her. FailedMessiah.com apologizes for the use of that language.