"…One woman carrying in a table, which we bring because no tables are provided for women, was stopped and she was told, “Tables are not allowed.” Another woman was told that siddurim [prayer books] were not allowed to be brought in to the Kotel [Western Wall plaza and prayer areas].…Journalists were told that they could not bring cameras in without prior permission from the Western Wall Heritage foundation.…"
Bonnie Rivas Ras of Women of the Wall (WoW) writes in the Jerusalem Post about the illegal behavior last Friday of the head of the quasi-governmental Western Wall Heritage Foundation, haredi Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Foundation’s government-paid security staff and Israel police:
…I knew something was up as soon as I arrived at the security booth. My overnight bag was rifled by the staff…One woman carrying in a table, which we bring because no tables are provided for women, was stopped and she was told, “Tables are not allowed.” Another woman was told that siddurim [prayer books] were not allowed to be brought in to the Kotel [Western Wall plaza and prayer areas].
The restrictions, enforced by a very large intimidating man, kept coming. Journalists were told that they could not bring cameras in without prior permission from the Western Wall Heritage foundation. We waited at the entrance and were not allowed to enter until the police commander who oversees the area intervened.
As we walked to the women’s Section, we saw a solid mass of black, surrounding the back of and the walkway around the women’s section. Some of the younger men were standing on the ledge and were actually inside the women’s space. These men physically prevented our male supporters from joining our prayers [from the men's section], and they jeered and yelled at our davening. At Rabinowitz’s Kotel only some people are allowed to pray.
As soon as we arrived, we learned that Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, one of our board members, was taken into police custody and that our Torah was confiscated by the police. It was only later returned. The police said she was detained for acting suspiciously and trying to bring a questionable object into the Kotel. Even though the [Jerusalem District Court’s] ruling declares that women are allowed to read from a Sefer Torah at the Kotel, Rabinowitz has prevented us from bringing our Torah in and from using one of the hundreds of Torahs that are already at the Kotel. At Rabinowitz’s Kotel only some people get to read Torah.
The women’s section was very empty with only a few women praying right in front of the wall when we began. But that didn’t stop two women from the Ghost of Kotel past to continuously disrupt our prayer; one by waving protest signs in our faces (the same woman who wore provocative statements taped to her clothing and kept poking us with an umbrella two years ago). One woman walked right up to us blowing a shrill whistle (she is the one who assaulted one of our board members at the Kotel two years ago). A third woman was stopping all of the women walking into the section, asking them to sign a petition to ban Women of the Wall from the Kotel. The rules forbidding protest signs, whistles or printed material at the Kotel only apply to some people at Rabinowitz’s Kotel.…
The Jerusalem District Court ruling, which is now been in force for about two years, chastises police for allowing haredim to riot and disturb the peace at the Kotel. Arrest these haredi rioters and demonstrators, the court ruled, do not arrest Women of the Wall's members who are legally trying to exercise their legal right to pray at the Kotel in the women's section, legally doing so aloud if they so choose, legally reading from a Torah scroll if they so choose.
Rabinowitz and henchmen have repeatedly violated that court ruling, even though it was upheld by Israel's attorney general. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done nothing to stop Rabinowitz because Netanyahu cares little for the rule of the law when it conflicts with his political needs, and his current government cannot stand without the support of haredi political parties.
So Israel lurches on, more a banana republic than a modern democracy, coming closer to being an Iranian-style theocracy as every day passes.
This is not what Israel's founders wanted or expected, and it is not what the vast majority of non-haredi Israeli Jews (including the vast majority of Netanyahu's own Likud Party voters) and Diaspora Jews want.
Even so, Israel pays haredim to have many children, allows them to evade the draft and not join the modern workforce, and pays for haredi schools that get away with teaching an ever larger number of ill-cared for haredi children no math, no science, no civics and no world history. This, too, is not what Israel's founders or non-haredi Israelis want. It is not what non-haredi Diaspora Jews want, either.
But as long as Israel is led by craven men like Benjamin Netanyahu, this is what Israel will get and what it will ever-faster become.
Israel's biggest existential threat isn't Iran – it is Netanyahu and the ill-educated illiterate haredim he enables.