Police try to impose Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett's unilateral Kotel 'solution' on Women of the Wall. When WoW refuses, police allow hundreds of Sefardi haredi girls to break the law and harass WoW as police stand by and do nothing.
Originally published at 8:46 pm CDT 10-5-2013
Israel Police Attempt To Skirt Court Order, Try To Persecute Women Of The Wall – Again
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
We now know more about the behavior of police and haredim at Friday’s Women of the Wall (WoW) prayer service at the Kotel (Western Wall). About 200 WoW members came to pray and were harassed by hundreds, if not thousands, of haredim.
Here’s the rundown of what happened in bullet-point:
• Police tried to coerce WoW to pray at the new egalitarian prayer area at Robinson’s Arch, citing the sensitive "security situation" at the Kotel as a reason.
• WoW refused and the police allowed them to pray at the Kotel in the women’s section rather in the back by the bathrooms where police have forced them to pray on several previous occasions – a clear indication that the "security situation" cited by police was not real.
• This was the first WoW prayer service since Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett had a new prayer platform erected unilaterally at Robinson’s Arch and then immediately touted it as a solution to the Kotel crisis caused by WoW praying at the Kotel proper. Police – who have acted for years as the employees of the Kotel’s haredi rabbi, Shmuel Rabinowitch, rather than the country’s police force and were chastized by the Jerusalem District court several months ago for doing so – were clearly trying to illegally enforce Bennett’s unilateral solution rather than uphold the law that allows WoW to pray at the Kotel undisturbed and which mandates police to arrest the haredim that harass WoW.
• WoW did not have a Torah scroll to use for their service for two reasons. 1) In 2010, Rabinowitch decreed that no one was allowed to bring a Torah scroll to the Kotel to use due to fears that doing so could be used a ruse to steal the Kotel's own scrolls. At the same time, he forbade WoW from using the Kotel's scrolls at Robinson's Arch, where they used to go to read the Torah because doing so at the Kotel was "illegal." 2) The Women of the Wall's Torah was stored at Robinson's Arch, and when checked early last week in the run-up to Friday's prayer service it was found to have major damage caused by dampness
and mold WoW says was caused by "the inadequate facilities at Robinson’s Arch" where Raninowitch's decree had forced them to store it. WoW says the scroll suffered about $2,300 in damage – damage that is not covered
• Several thousand Sefardi haredi girls came to the Kotel in chartered buses to pray for Sefardi haredi leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s health. Police did not ask them to stay home despite the alleged "security situation," and when hundreds of those girls encircled WoW, jeered at them, cursed them and spit on them, police did nothing to stop them and arrested – no one. Even when some of those Sefardi girls began thowing pieces of toilet paper at WoW and spitting on WoW in ernest, police arrested no one.
• As WoW was tring to pray in the women's section, Sefardi haredi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yosef used the site's loudspeakers to lead a prayers for his father's health – an unual time of day to do so and in what should have been a violation of the rules governing Kotel usage. (Loudspeakers are only allowed to be used for mass communal prayer – like the the twice-per year birkat kohanim ceremony – and for pre-arranged national events that do not coincide with normal prayer times.)
• WoW stopped their own prayer service and listened to Rabbi Yosef’s prayer for his father, answering “amen” to Yosef's prayer and continuing their own prayer service only when Yosef finished.
• Despite this clear show of respect for Yosef and his father, the Sefardi haredi girls continued to harass and spit on WoW as police stood by and did nothing to stop them.
• After WoW finished praying and was exiting the Kotel plaza, Israel HaYom reported that the Hebrew language news website Walla reported that several haredi men attacked WoW. Police removed those men from the Kotel plaza.
• In the end, the only arrest police made was of one haredi male youth who allegedly spat at WoW and threw things at them – although police spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby told media no one was arrested.
• Although WoW has many reasons for not praying at Robinson’s Arch, Walla was told that WoW refused to pray there because the space is not big enough. Yey WoW has consistently refused to pray there because it is egalitarian and therefore excludes many of their members, who won’t as Orthodox Jews pray with men and because they believe they have the right to pray at the Kotel proper – as the Jerusalem District Court finally ruled after 24 years of WoW’s monthly prayer groups there.
• The source of Walla’s claim appears to be the Kotel’s haredi rabbi, who has previously lied about the WoW crisis and who is clearly reflecting what will soon be the government’s imposed “compromise” solution – forcing WoW to pray at Robinson’s Arch. The story appears to also be an attempt to paint WoW as selfish and concerned about its own power rather than the overarching issues of equality at the Kotel proper for all Jews – including non-Orthodox Jews, Orthodox Jewish femenists and secular Jews – and an end to the haredi/Orthodox hegemony over the country’s most important national shrine.