Activists from the Women of the Wall movement and the Reform Movement arrived at the Western Wall Plaza Friday morning for the Women of the Wall’s monthly egalitarian prayer service, marking the start of the Hebrew month of Kislev.
The activists arrived without Torah scrolls, bringing instead empty scroll coverings to protest the prohibition against them using Torah scrolls in the main Western Wall Plaza – rather than the egalitarian prayer section.
Worshippers at the Western Wall clashed with the Women of the Wall activists, with police separating the two groups.
Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of the Women of the Wall group, was ordered by police to leave the Western Wall Plaza after she attempted to smuggle in a small Torah scroll for the unauthorized egalitarian prayer service.
MK Itamar Ben-Gvir (Religious Zionist Party), who arrived at the Western Wall Friday morning after spending 48 hours in the Knesset for marathon deliberations on the state budget, slammed the Reform Movement and the Women of the Wall.
“The Women of the Wall’s behavior is intentionally provocative. The Western Wall belongs to everyone, but if someone comes to provoke others, they don’t need to be at the Wall.”
Labor MK Gilad Kariv, a member of the Reform Movement in Israel, slammed former premier and current Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu for blocking implementation of plans to modify the Western Wall Plaza and expand the egalitarian prayer section.
“Netanyahu is the person who brought the Western Wall plan, but then turned his back on everyone. It is lamentable that the Opposition Leader, who pushed for the [Western Wall] plan, is now supporting calls for violence made by haredi parties for political reasons,” Kariv told Galei Tzahal.
“My decision not to come to the Western Wall wasn’t easy,” regarding his cancelled visit to the Wall Friday morning. “The Women of the Wall are exposed to violence every month,” Kariv continued, referring to the group’s monthly prayer services marking the start of each new Hebrew month.
On Thursday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog called on MKs Gilad Kariv (Labor) and Alon Tal (Blue and White) not to attend the egalitarian prayer service Friday morning as they had planned on doing, “in order to prevent unnecessary fighting and baseless hatred between elected officials in front of the remains of our Holy Temple.”
The two MKs accepted Herzog’s request and cancelled their plans to attend.
The President also informed MK Kariv that, at the same time, he has instructed the Director-general of President’s Residence, Eyal Shviki, to start talks next week with all parties involved on the issue of prayer at the Western Wall plaza, in order to hear their positions and try to find possible solutions to the crisis.
MK Kariv said, “Thank you to President Herzog for his willingness to push for a solution to this long-standing dispute. I will continue to stand by the Women of the Wall, and work to implement the plan for prayers at the Western Wall. This outline is in line with the values of the coalition and the government which seek to bring about an end to the divisions in Israeli society and the Jewish people.”
United Torah Judaism chairman MK Moshe Gafni said, “Since Gilad Kariv used his parliamentary immunity to undermine the status quo at the Western Wall, and since he announced that he would not be coming tomorrow, our arrival [at the compound] on Rosh Chodesh is unnecessary. We will continue to physically preserve the sanctity of the Western Wall.”
Shas chairman Aryeh Deri said, “I thank President Isaac Herzog for his efforts to preserve the sanctity of the Western Wall – a remnant of our Holy Temple. On the eve of Rosh Chodesh Kislev, on which the Jewish people mark the victory of light over darkness, Shas will continue to fight with all its might against those who seek to desecrate the sanctity of the Western Wall, and to harm the Jewish identity of the state.”
Earlier, haredi and religious Knesset members announced that they intend to block the entry of a Torah scroll by the Women of the Wall organization into the Western Wall plaza, after in recent months Kariv used his parliamentary immunity to bring a scroll to the plaza for use by egalitarian groups.
Source: Arutz Sheva