Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews clashed with police while protesting against a women’s prayer group that had attempted to worship at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, after Benjamin Netanyahu amplified calls to prevent the “desecration.”
The ‘Women of the Wall’ feminist group holds monthly prayers at the holy site, and more than 100 activists and supporters showed up on Friday to protest rules that forbid them from bringing Torah scripture scrolls into the prayer plaza.
The dispute has intensified since the swearing in of Israel’s new government in June, which saw ultra-Orthodox parties pushed into the opposition.
To keep around 2,000 Orthodox demonstrators from female worshippers, police set up a physical barrier. Plaza security guards from the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, an ultra-Orthodox organization, reportedly raped some women and pushed them to the ground.
“We cannot read from the Torah in the women’s section in 2021. Why is that? Why the hell not?” Anat Hoffman, the group’s founder, told the Associated Press, adding that they were “fighting for equality and religious pluralism and justice.”
The group, which was mobbed and heckled by the protesters, reportedly accused the security guards of violence, but the foundation rejected the charge – instead alleging the group had provoked Orthodox protesters and that its security guards had “protected [them] with their bodies.”
Clashes had already broken out between protesters and police ahead of the women’s arrival, and metal barricades were erected in anticipation of violence. According to reports, one person was arrested in the clashes between protesters and activists. However, a new escalation was avoided.
בוקר טוב מהכותל. מאות מפגינים חרדים ניסו לפרוץ לעבר נשות הכותל ונבלמו ע”י המשטרה. pic.twitter.com/3p4eJfhYea
— نير حسون Nir Hasson ניר חסון (@nirhasson) November 5, 2021
According to media reports the Israeli President Isaac Herzog prevented a serious confrontation by persuading reformist politician Gilad Kariv and not to go to the procession. Kariv had apparently been planning to hand over a Torah scroll to the women’s group.
Arye dery (lawmaker) was quick to respond to the reports and tweeted his support to get out. “so that, Heaven forbid, this holy place is not desecrated.”This tweet was sent to Netanyahu, an opposition leader, by his two million followers on Twitter.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) November 5, 2021
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