Haredim called on to protest Women of the Wall Torah reading


TEL AVIV (JTA) – Women of the Wall said it will read from a Torah scroll at its upcoming service at the Western Wall.

Meanwhile, several leading haredi Orthodox rabbis called on haredi men to gather Sunday for a mass prayer opposite the group’s service that included an admonition against violence.

On Wednesday, Women of the Wall director Lesley Sachs told JTA that her group had acquiesced to a request from Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett to refrain from reading the Torah in May at its monthly women’s Rosh Chodesh service at the wall.

“We could have done it last month, but Bennett asked us to make a certain compromises and we agreed for one month to show our good will,” Sachs said. “There was no question we would bring it this month. Without it, it’s not a full service.”

Bennett met with Women of the Wall representatives on Wednesday in what Sachs called a “very productive meeting,” but adding there was “nothing new.”

Women of the Wall members have been arrested for wearing prayer shawls over a law forbidding practice that falls outside the wall’s “local custom.”

In April, however, a judge determined that the group’s activities – including reading from a Torah scroll — did not contravene the law.

The absence of a Torah scroll last month did little to prevent unrest during Women of the Wall’s service, as thousands of haredi young women packed the Western Wall Plaza during the service, and several dozen haredi men protested, with some throwing coffee, water and a chair in protest.

The call for thousands of men to mass for this month’s service, according to haredi news site Kikar Hashabbat, included the admonition against violence.

“It will be a show of sanctification of God’s name,” said Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yossi Deutsch, who is haredi. “Many will come, according to the instruction of great rabbis, to sanctify the name of heaven and prove that we will not surrender in the battle over the holiness of the Western Wall.”

Sachs said she does not think reading from a Torah scroll should incite haredi protest.

“We’re not there to provoke,” she said. “We just want to do the new month’s service, which does include the Torah scroll.”



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