At about to 4:00 am, police entered the women’s section and searched WoW’s bags, finding the Torah scroll. Despite the agreement with the Old City's police chief, police tried to confiscate the Torah scroll and hold the WoW members for questioning. But WoW refused to comply.
WoW Reads From Torah Scroll At Kotel, Blows Shofar, As Police And Kotel Guards Repeatedly Violate Agreement Made With The Women’s Prayer Group
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Women of the Wall (WoW), a group that for more than 25 years has advocated for open women’s prayer rights at the Kotel (Western Wall), struck a deal with the Old City of Jerusalem’s police chief last month that was supposed to allow them to read from a full sized Torah scroll in the women’s section of the Kotel – if WoW could get the scroll into the section without being stopped by police.
Wow achieved that for the first time today, Ha’aretz reported, by smuggling a Torah into the women’s section last night when guards weren’t looking for it and holding a 12-hour study- and pray-in before using the Torah scroll this morning during morning prayers.
But all did not go smoothly.
At about to 4:00 am, police entered the women’s section and searched WoW’s bags, finding the Torah scroll. Despite the agreement with the Old City's police chief, police tried to confiscate the Torah scroll and hold the WoW members for questioning.
But the WoW members refused to go with police and would not allow police to take the Torah scroll. Instead, they insisted police call Biton. They did and Biton ordered them to leave the WoW members alone.
But then about 6:30 am, as more WoW members arrived for the morning prayer service WoW holds on the first day of every month (except next month, Tishrei, which is Rosh Hashana), some were stopped at the entrance to Kotel plaza because they had shofars (ram’s horn trumpets) in their bags.
They insisted Biton be called again. He was, and Biton ordered police and the Kotel guards to leave WoW alone and allow them to keep and use their shofars.
Soon after that second incident, security guards at the Kotel tried to stop WoW members from bringing their own prayer books into the women’s section. Biton was called for the third time and he again issued an order to leave WoW alone and let them bring the prayer books in. This attempt to hinder WoW is especially egregious because both men and women regularly bring their own prayer books to the Kotel and have done so for decades.
This all took place even though a Jerusalem court ruled almost two years ago that WoW has the legal right to pray in the women’s section of the Kotel as it sees fit, even pray out loud, even singing, even reading from a Torah scroll and wearing tallits (prayer shawls) and tefillin (phylacteries). The same ruling chastised police for harassing WoW while allowing the haredim who harass and sometimes assault WoW to go unpunished. But despite that ruling, police and the Kotel’s security guards (who answer to the haredi state-employed rabbi of the Kotel, Shmuel Rabinowitz) have continued to harass WoW.
Meanwhile, only about 80 women reportedly participated WoW’s morning prayers, down from the 150 to 200 that is the norm. WoW believes the decrease might be due in part to the haredi terror attack on the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade late last month that killed one person, a 16-year-old girl, and injured five other.
WoW dedicated today’s prayers to tolerance and pluralism. Even so, WoW was cursed and taunted by haredim throughout its prayer service.