Feminists, Ultra-Orthdox Clash at Western Wall

Women of the Wall, a group that advocates for gender equality in Jewish prayer, has been going to Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall, to pray on the first day of every Hebrew month for the past 27 years.

The women – Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist – want to wear prayer shawls, pray aloud and read from the Torah, a scroll of the Bible. Many ultra-Orthodox Jews believe these practices violate Jewish law and there has often been violence at the scene.

Until last month, the women would start their prayer service at the Western Wall, and then move to a nearby site to read the Torah. Women who wore prayer shawls were arrested. Now a Jerusalem court has ruled that the women may pray as they wish.

The ultra-Orthodox are hitting back. In July, rabbis and other religious leaders sent thousands of young girls, all dressed modestly in long skirts, to the site at 5 a.m. so there would be no room for the Women of the Wall.

Huddled next to the exit and bathrooms of the Western Wall Plaza by the military police “for their protection,”  the activist group followed through with their monthly prayers. They ignored the ultra-Orthodox men who shouted insults at them from behind the police barricade.

The women, joined in prayer this month with the men who support them, sang and danced and even celebrated a Bat Mitzvah for one of their young women. Two men were arrested for throwing objects, including eggs, at the women praying.

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