Police remove haredi protesters from women’s service at Western Wall


JERUSALEM (JTA) – Police removed haredi Orthodox protesters who disturbed a women’s prayer service at the Western Wall.

The Original Women of the Wall group held morning services on Feb. 29 using a small Torah scroll they smuggled in. The more than 20 women were wearing prayer shawls, or tallit, and phylacteries, or tefillin.

According to a statement issued by the group, a breakaway from the Women of the Wall, the prayers were “brutally disturbed” by several haredi Orthodox men and women.

“Over 20 women participated in this morning’s prayer as the group and other worshipers prayed uneventfully at the Kotel until a number of haredi women began screaming and attempting to push into the group, assaulting members of the group by violent shoving and grabbing arms,” the statement said. “Shouting and cursing, the attackers did not relent their assault until police arrived to protect the women’s prayer group.”

After removing the protesters, police remained in the area until the prayer service ended.

The Original Women of the Wall rejects the recent compromise for an egalitarian prayer plaza, and the group has said it will not leave the women’s section of the Western Wall once it is ready. It has begun to have services at the Western Wall on days other than Rosh Chodesh, as the Women of the Wall traditionally has done for more than 25 years.

A 2013 Supreme Court ruling acknowledged the women’s right to pray at the Western Wall according to their beliefs, claiming it does not violate what has come to be known as “local custom.” Regulations at the site set by the office have allowed women to wear prayer shawls and kippahs, but prevented them from using a Torah scroll in their section.