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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Due to thousands of haredi schoolgirls Women of the Wall barred from praying directly at Kotel once again

The Women of the Wall prayer rights activist group was holding its monthly prayer service at the Western Wall on Wednesday, and the Jerusalem Police said there were around 250 activists present.

The WoW group was forced to congregate in a different area because the women's section of the Western Wall was too packed, the police said.

Around one to two hundred shouting and whistle blowing haredi men and women were protesting close to the WoW prayer area but police had made no arrests.

The Jerusalem Police accompanied the group members from the complex’s entrance to the Western Wall plaza so as to prevent anyone from interfering with their prayers.

Last month, thousands of haredi schoolgirls filled the women’s section entirely, preventing WoW from holding its service there. 

The group had to conduct it instead at the entrance to the Western Wall plaza complex, away from the wall.

The group expressed intense displeasure with the arrangements last month, saying that at the very least, the police should have allowed WoW to pray in the area facing the wall behind the main prayer sections for men and women.

WoW has announced that it will blow the shofar during the Wednesday morning prayers, as is customary in the month of Elul, and will also bring a Torah scroll to the entrance of the complex.

Bringing private Torah scrolls into the area is not permitted, so only the scrolls held by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which administers the site, are available for use. 

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall and chairman of the foundation, has not allowed WoW use of these Torah scrolls.

7:05 A.M.: Women of the Wall chairwoman Anat Hoffman says she was just notified by police that the organization's supporters would once again be relegated this month to a place away from women's section for their monthly prayer service, "but closer than last month." She says that because possible clashes were expected this morning between Temple Mount faithful and Muslim worshipers praying at conclusion of Ramadan, the Women of the Wall have decided this month to back down, "but this is the last time."

7:16 A.M.: Women of the Wall have begun their prayer service. Several hundred women and men holding egalitarian prayer service at far back end of plaza behind police barricades. Ultra-Orthodox men congregating, jeering on other side of the barricades, and using using loud whistles and loudspeakers to drown out the egalitarian service.

7:35 A.M.: Gilad Kariv, head of the Reform movement in Israel: "Police are in cahoots with Haredi thugs. They are watching what's going on and doing absolutely nothing."

7:45 A.M.: Jerusalem police spokesman Shmulik Ben Rubi tells: "Blowing whistles is not against the law or a disturbance of the peace. Therefore, we will not stop it." Spokesman says that although the plan was to allow WOW to pray in women's section today, it was not possible "because by 6:30 A.M. the women's prayer section was full."

Once again this month, responding to calls, thousands of young seminary girls showed up for Rosh Hodesh prayer in order to crowd out Women of the Wall worshippers in response to calls from rabbinic leaders.

8:26 A.M.: Jerusalem police spokesman says no arrests this month but "several whistles confiscated."

Lesley Sachs, director of Women of the Wall tells: "police are not dealing equally with us and the Haredim. The same law that prevents bringing torah scrolls into the Kotel area also prohibits using musical instruments, which is what whistles are. It also prevents holding up signs."

8:29 A.M.: A group of Women of the Wall supporters is sitting with a torah scroll at entrance to plaza to protest refusal of Kotel rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz to allow them to bring one inside.

8:31 A.M.: Women of the Wall supporters blowing shofar at kotel to conclude prayer service.

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