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Annie Claire Bergeron-Oliver

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Why Deny Women Access to the Western Wall?

Posted: 07/09/2013 12:01 pm

JERUSALEM- In another example of the growing stress of the ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews on Israeli society, you only have to go as far as the Wailing Wall.

Police barricades blocked hundreds of Women of the Wall supporters, a liberal Jewish women's group, who are demanding equality of worship at the Western Wall. The ancient revered wall is one of Jerusalem's holiest sites.

"We have the right to pray at the wall just like anyone else, and they (the ultra-Orthodox community) will get used to us," said the organization's director Lesley Sachs.

Current customs prevent females from wearing prayer shawls and from praying and reading the Torah aloud, as men are permitted to do. The group faces stiff opposition from the Ultra Orthodox community who say prayer shawls and other similar religious items are reserved for men.

The group's estimated 350 members were corralled into a section of the plaza in front of the Western Wall, guarded by lines of police officers and barriers. It's the first time in 25 years the women have been prevented from holding their monthly limited service at the wall.

"It is simply wrong," said one of the group's supporters Ellyn Bender. "Cage them, as well as create a space for us."

About 1,000 ultra-Orthodox men gathered on the opposite side of the barricades, chanting and yelling profanities at the women. Midway through the service two ultra-Orthodox women charged their way through the crowd blowing their whistles to drown out the prayers. Some also threw eggs at the women seeking fairer treatment at the wall.

The opposition's behaviour, said Bender, was inappropriate.

"For them to be yelling things like prostitute at us is completely un-holy and un-Jewish."

The unprecedented police action to restrict the group's access was a necessary security measure, said Israeli Police Spokeswoman Kagit Rapapore. The decision, she said, had nothing to do with religion or politics, but with over-crowding in the women's section of the wall. As many as 7,000 young Orthodox women were out in support of their community.

The group's director repudiated the police's statement, saying there was enough space for them to pray.

The movement got a significant boost last April after a Jerusalem District Court Judge ruled the liberal women were not violating a high court ruling by wearing prayer shawls and reciting the Torah aloud at the Western Wall.

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  • ISRAEL-RELIGION-JUDAISM-WOMEN

    Israeli policemen arrest an Orthodox Jewish youth during a protest against the liberal Jewish religious group, Women of the Wall, whose members were praying on July 8, 2013 near the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, in Jerusalem's Old City to mark the first day of the Jewish month of Av. AFP PHOTO/ MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • ISRAEL-RELIGION-JUDAISM-WOMEN

    A member of the liberal Jewish religious group Women of the Wall wears phylacteries and the 'Tallit' shawl, traditional Jewish prayer apparel for men, as they pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on June 9, 2013 marking the first day of the Jewish month of Tamuz. AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Women of the Wall Pray At The Kotel For The Second Time

    JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JUNE 09: (ISRAEL OUT) Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men protest against the religious group Women of the Wall, who are marking the first day of the Jewish month of Tammuz at the Western Wall on June 09, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. Around 300 members of the Women of the Wall and their supporters attended the Women of the Wall's prayer service, faced by about 200 ultra-Orthodox protesters. The Women of the Wall prayed at the Kotel for the second time since a court ruling by the Jerusalem District Court, which granted them permission to pray in the women's section according to their own belief and custom in prayer shawls and tefillin. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

  • ISRAEL-RELIGION-JUDAISM-WOMEN-RIGHTS

    Members of the liberal Jewish religious group Women of the Wall wear 'Tallit', the traditional Jewish prayer shawls for men, as they pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on May 10, 2013 marking the first day of the Jewish month of Sivan. Over 1,000 ultra-Orthodox men were being kept away from the group of 'Women of the Wall' as they praying using prayer shawls, after a court ruled they could do so, police arrested three ultra-Orthodox men and detained another two' for public disturbances. AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Women of the Wall Pray At The Kotel For The Second Time

    JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JUNE 09: (ISRAEL OUT) Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men protest against the religious group Women of the Wall, who are marking the first day of the Jewish month of Tammuz at the Western Wall on June 09, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. Around 300 members of the Women of the Wall and their supporters attended the Women of the Wall's prayer service, faced by about 200 ultra-Orthodox protesters. The Women of the Wall prayed at the Kotel for the second time since a court ruling by the Jerusalem District Court, which granted them permission to pray in the women's section according to their own belief and custom in prayer shawls and tefillin. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

  • Women of the Wall Pray At The Kotel For The Second Time

    JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JUNE 09: (ISRAEL OUT) Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men protest against the religious group Women of the Wall, who are marking the first day of the Jewish month of Tammuz at the Western Wall on June 09, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. Around 300 members of the Women of the Wall and their supporters attended the Women of the Wall's prayer service, faced by about 200 ultra-Orthodox protesters. The Women of the Wall prayed at the Kotel for the second time since a court ruling by the Jerusalem District Court, which granted them permission to pray in the women's section according to their own belief and custom in prayer shawls and tefillin. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

  • ISRAEL-RELIGION-JUDAISM-WOMEN

    Ultra Orthodox Jewish men hold a banner to protest against members of the liberal Jewish religious group Women of the Wall who pray with traditional Jewish prayer apparel for men on June 9, 2013 at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City marking the first day of the Jew sh month of Tamuz. AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Women of the Wall Pray At The Kotel For The Second Time

    JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JUNE 09: (ISRAEL OUT) Members of the Women of the Wall religious group mark the first day of the Jewish month of Tammuz at the Western Wall on June 09, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. Around 300 members of the Women of the Wall and their supporters attended the Women of the Wall's prayer service, faced by about 200 ultra-Orthodox protesters. The Women of the Wall prayed at the Kotel for the second time since a court ruling by the Jerusalem District Court, which granted them permission to pray in the women's section according to their own belief and custom in prayer shawls and tefillin. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

  • Women of the Wall Pray At The Kotel For The Second Time

    JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JUNE 09: (ISRAEL OUT) Ultra-Orthodox Jewish protestors dance as they protest against the religious group Women of the Wall who are marking the first day of the Jewish month of Tammuz at the Western Wall on June 09, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. Around 300 members of the Women of the Wall and their supporters attended the Women of the Wall's prayer service, faced by about 200 ultra-Orthodox protesters. The Women of the Wall prayed at the Kotel for the second time since a court ruling by the Jerusalem District Court, which granted them permission to pray in the women's section according to their own belief and custom in prayer shawls and tefillin. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

  • ISRAEL-RELIGION-JUDAISM-WOMEN

    An Orthodox Jewish man is arrested by Israeli policemen as he protested against members of the liberal Jewish religious group Women of the Wall who pray with traditional Jewish prayer apparel for men on June 9, 2013 at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City marking the first day of the Jewish month of Tamuz. AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • ISRAEL-RELIGION-JUDAISM-WOMEN

    Orthodox Jewish women pray in protest against members of the liberal Jewish religious group Women of the Wall who pray with traditional Jewish prayer apparel for men on June 9, 2013 at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City marking the first day of the Jew sh month of Tamuz. AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • ISRAEL-RELIGION-JUDAISM-WOMEN

    A member of the liberal Jewish religious group Women of the Wall wears phylacteries and the 'Tallit' shawl, traditional Jewish prayer apparel for men, as they pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on June 9, 2013 marking the first day of the Jewish month of Tamuz. AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • ISRAEL-RELIGION-JUDAISM-WOMEN

    Members of the liberal Jewish religious group Women of the Wall wearing phylacteries and the 'Tallit' shawl, traditional Jewish prayer apparel for men, pray at the plaza near the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, in Jerusalem's Old City on July 8, 2013 marking the first day of the Jewish month of Av. AFP PHOTO/ MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • ISRAEL-RELIGION-JUDAISM-WOMEN

    Members of the liberal Jewish religious group Women of the Wall wearing phylacteries and the 'Tallit' shawl, traditional Jewish prayer apparel for men, pray at the plaza near the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, in Jerusalem's Old City on July 8, 2013 marking the first day of the Jewish month of Av. AFP PHOTO/ MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • ISRAEL-RELIGION-JUDAISM-WOMEN

    Israeli policemen arrest an Orthodox Jewish youth during a protest against the liberal Jewish religious group, Women of the Wall, whose members were praying on July 8, 2013 near the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, in Jerusalem's Old City to mark the first day of the Jewish month of Av. AFP PHOTO/ MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • ISRAEL-RELIGION-JUDAISM-WOMEN

    Members of the liberal Jewish religious group Women of the Wall wearing phylacteries and the 'Tallit' shawl, traditional Jewish prayer apparel for men, pray at the plaza near the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, in Jerusalem's Old City on July 8, 2013 marking the first day of the Jewish month of Av. AFP PHOTO/ MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

 

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