Kristine L Ming

Women physically, verbally harassed at Western Wall after prayer service

The Original Women of the Wall organization, an offshoot from Women of the Wall, smuggled a Torah scroll into the women’s section of the Western Wall on Monday for a daily prayer service and were subject to physical and verbal harassment by other worshipers at the site, both men and women.

OWOW has publicly rejected the agreement made between the government and the non-Orthodox Jewish denominations together with the Women of the Wall last month, and says it will continue to pray at the women’s section of the current Western Wall plaza regardless of the agreement.

OWOW has also begun of late to stage its prayer ceremonies at the women’s section not just for the new month as it and WOW have done in the past.

Some 20 women from the group conducted a prayer service on Monday morning, having discreetly brought a small sized Torah scroll into the site. Regulations in force at the Western Wall prohibit bringing a private Torah scroll into the area.

After concluding the day’s Torah reading, the OWOW worshipers were subjected to vocal attacks and curses, while two women physically shoved some of the prayer participants and grabbed them by the arm.

Men in the men’s section also shouted at the women through the partition, calling the OWOW prayer participants “non-Jews” committing sacrilegious acts.

Eventually several police officers arrived at the prayer section to restore order, removing the women who harassed the OWOW worshipers.

“We were pushed and shoved by screaming women following a beautiful reading from the Torah,” said Prof. Shulamit Magnus, a prominent member of OWOW.

“Unfortunately, we are accustomed to having catcalls, whistles, screams, and curses from the men’s section. But this physical attack on our bodies from other women was shocking. Fortunately, the police arrived and, following legal procedures, removed the women who were disturbing the peace, which allowed us to complete our service. The police also stayed nearby as we dispersed from the Kotel, ensuring that we were not harmed in the plaza.”

Magnus expressed gratitude to the police for intervening and protecting their prayer service.

The rejection by OWOW of the recent agreement to create a formal pluralist prayer section could complicate its implementation.

In 2013, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that women in WOW prayer services must be allowed to pray in accordance with their own customs and not be subject to arrest for wearing prayer shawls and tefillin as they had been previously.

The terms of the agreement reached last month require the government to radically upgrade the current space for non-Orthodox prayer at the Robinson’s Arch area at the southern end of the Western Wall which will be formally recognized as a space for non-Orthodox prayer to be administered by a body including representatives of the non-Orthodox movements.

As part of the agreement, WOW has agreed that once the new prayer space is ready, it will abrogate its right to pray at the women’s section of the main Western Wall plaza and the site will be  formally designated as a place for Orthodox prayer only.

It remains to be seen how the courts will view ongoing prayers by OWOW at the women’s section of the Western Wall after the pluralist section is opened.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Women-physically-verbally-harassed-at-Western-Wall-after-conducting-prayer-service-Torah-reading-446436

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