Western Wall heckling worse than ever for monthly service, Women of the Wall says


JERUSALEM (JTA) — More than 100 women who assembled for the Women of the Wall’s monthly Rosh Chodesh service at the Western Wall faced more intense heckling than ever, the group said.

The women, who smuggled in a small Torah scroll for the service, were attacked verbally and physically, the group said in a statement issued Monday, hours after the service in the women’s section of the Western Wall plaza.

Young girls and women with their faces covered whistled, shouted, spit at and cursed the worshippers in an effort to shut down the service, which was held behind police barriers at the back of the women’ section. Men also chanted, jeered and yelled vulgarities to drown out the women’s prayers, shouting invective such as “Reform are worse than ISIS,” and “Reform go home,” according to the Women of the Wall. Some women also said they were shoved by security guards and had to dodge water bottles thrown at them.

The group also said that prayers from the men’s side were broadcast by a loudspeaker that is usually used only for special services such as the priestly blessing or on Tisha B’Av, and that the loudspeakers were purposely aimed at the women’s section.

“It seems like the State prefers cursing, jeering and whistling over women’s prayer,” said Women of the Wall chair Anat Hoffman. “There’s no way to explain the helplessness of security opposite a hostile and misguided minority armed with whistles and plastic trumpets, including little girls who screamed at the top of their lungs, to silence the WOW worshipers. The month of Av is traditionally an opportunity to remember that Jerusalem fell not for the might of the oppressors, but for the weakness of the people of Jerusalem, who were distracted by internal struggles.”

The group has held its monthly Rosh Chodesh prayer for the new Hebrew month in the women’s section for more than 25 years.

In January, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of women being allowed to read from the Torah in the women’s section at the Western Wall, and put a halt to security searches of the women for items such as Torah scrolls, tallitot and tefillin. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation had prevented women from bringing Torah scrolls and religious items into the women’s section.

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