It was a game-changing moment. Early this morning Jerusalem time, Women of the Wall (WoW) read from a full sized Torah scroll at the Kotel (Western Wall) – the first time since WoW was founded 25 years ago it has done so. The reading took place in violation of haredi-set Kotel rules that have been repeatedly rubberstamped by successive Israeli governments, sparking a mini riot by haredim.
Updated at 6:20 am CDT
Women Of The Wall Reads From Torah Scroll At Kotel Sparking Haredi Mini Riot
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
It was a game-changing moment.
Less than two hours ago, Women of the Wall (WoW) read from a full sized Torah at the Kotel (Western Wall) – the first time since WoW was founded 25 years ago it has done so. The reading took place in violation of haredi-set Kotel rules that have been repeatedly rubberstamped by successive Israeli governments.
In what looked like a trick play from the early days of American football, Ha'aretz reported a group of male WoW supporters opened a gap in the mechitzah (privacy fence) separating the men’s and women’s prayer sections and passed the Torah scroll to WoW before startled haredim or police could stop them.
As WoW’s Torah reading took place, the kotel’s haredi rabbi, Shmuel Rabinowitz, allegedly asked police to seize the Torah scroll. Police did not do it.
At the same time, a group of haredi men reportedly physically attacked the men who passed the Torah scroll to WoW. The haredim then entered the women’s section and tried unsuccessfully to seize the Torah scroll. But before they could wrest the Torah away from WoW, police intervened and pushed the haredi men away.
When the Torah reading was over, WoW sang and danced with the Torah and then, with the help of police, passed it back to the men's section by opening a small section of the mechitza.
For years, WoW has tried to get a Torah scroll past security so they could read it at the holy site, but police and Kotel security have always stopped them, except once last year when WoW was able to sneak in a miniature Torah scroll.
Even though an Israeli court as ruled WoW can pray as it sees fit at the Kotel in the women’s section, the haredi rabbi of the Kotel and police have generally worked together to prevent WoW from fully doing so, and Rabinowitz has repeatedly refused to allow them to use one of the Kotel’s own Torah scrolls because, he claims, doing so would violate “local custom.”
After WoW's Torah reading Rabinowitz lashed out at the group.
According to a report in Arutz Sheva, Rabinowitz claimed WoW “has made another tear in the delicate fabric of the Kotel. The Torah scroll was handed over the partition in a way that demeaned it," Rabinowitz insisted – even though in actuality, the Torah scroll was walked through the mechitzah, which was unhooked and opened just like a door in a house. "This is a provocative act whose sole purpose is to 'set the Kotel on fire' – and indeed they succeeded in arousing the anger of the worshipers. It was only thanks to the hard work of the police and Kotel attendants that blood was not actually spilled.”
Rabinowitz reportedly asked the cabinet's secretary and the Minister of Religious Affairs to set new regulations to stop WoW from doing this again. Rabinowitz made that request despite the fact that a Jerusalem court has already ruled that WoW can pray in the women's section of the Kotel proper as it chooses – meaning Rabinowitz and his haredi rabbi colleagues have no real jurisdiction over it.
[Hat Tip: Joel Katz.]