Criminalizing Jewish women’s halachic prayer at the Kotel is further proof of the growing Islamification of Jewish Israel. Haredi goons, both male and female, who have perpetrated terrifying physical and verbal violence against members of Women of the Wall (WOW) have never been arrested, fined, interrogated, or threatened with jail time.
Such violence has included (but is not limited to) haredim throwing metal chairs over the mechitza, lobbing a canister of tear gas into the women’s section, throwing garbage and excrement at the female worshippers, trying to physically wrestle their Torah away from them, standing on chairs overlooking the women’s section, and rushing into the women’s section and alongside the mechitza screaming, bellowing, stalking, hounding, cursing, and raging at them. No one has ever been arrested.
On Dec. 18, Rosh Chodesh Tevet, the Kotel was practically empty. Heavy rains kept most people away. Women of the Wall were faithfully there, just before 7 a.m. I watched on Kotel Cam and could easily see a group of women who kept to the right side of the ezrat nashim, the women’s section – when suddenly, from the warmth and safety of the male-only underground tunnel shul, a swarm of men rushed to the mechitza and started cursing our women. I was told that this time, for the first time, the police actually protected WOW members, but they still allowed this screaming swarm to follow the women out of the women’s section and along the wet and windy route to Robinson’s Arch. The men did not stop cursing and threatening the women all the way.
Not one hounder or screamer was arrested. Yes, even though they certainly disturbed the “sensibilities” of the female worshippers.
For 21 years, these women have faithfully been trying to pray – not as “feminists,” not as “Catholics,” “Buddhists,” or “Taoists” – Rabbi Avi Shafran’s insulting view of what these devoted and sincere Jewish women are doing. [See page 18.] They are praying as Jews, in a way that is halachically acceptable to most modern Orthodox rabbis; they are not praying the way Conservative, Reform, or Reconstructionist Jews pray, they do not constitute a minyan, and they are not trying to pray with men in an egalitarian service.
It is an outrage that the modern, democratic state of Israel, committed to religious pluralism when it comes to other religions, has so totally caved in to the most intolerant of its citizens (the haredim) and has chosen, instead, to arrest, fine, and potentially jail religious and religiously learned Jewish women.
The matter cries out to Heaven.
Phyllis Chesler is an emerita professor of psychology and the author of many books, including “The New Anti-Semitism.” She prayed with the women at the Kotel at their first gathering, on Dec. 1, 1988, and co-authored, with Rivka Haut, “Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism’s Holy Site.”