A group of some 400 Haredim on Sunday morning demonstrated against the Women of the Wall’s prayer with talit and tefilin, in defiance of the ruling of the local rabbinic authority, in the plaza in front of the Kotel.
(For the record, Israeli media sources kept referring to the place as “Judaism’s holiest site,” which is intriguing, seeing as Judaism’s holiest site is a mere 20 feet up and a couple feet eastward from that plaza.)
The Haredim carried signs that read: “Women of the Provocation, you invented a new Judaism, go find yourselves a new Kotel.”
As a preventative measure, the police closed part of the upper plaza – above the prayer plazas, to keep the protesters away from the women’s section, and all the Women of the Wall were channeled into the plaza through a passageway running below the Mugrhabi bridge (which leads up the Temple Mount) where the Women of the Wall were allowed to pray there without interruption. Also, inside the women’s section, police closed off an area with metal barricades for the Women of the Wall, so their prayer not be disturbed.
This was the way Police prepared for the monthly event, and from a law-and-order perspective it made perfect sense. If two adversary groups are planning to demonstrate at the same time, the job of the crowd control police is to make sure they never reach one another.
But that was not creating the effect that the WOW were looking for – the epic struggle images. Because, let’s face it, a revolution is like a shark – if it stops struggling it dies. And so, if the courts are now permitting them prayer, they must find someone against whom they can struggle, and a bunch of Haredim with signs 200 yards away just won’t do.
They were planning to bring a Sefer Torah this morning, but, thank God, somehow that was thwarted. The Sefer Torah will very likely be featured in the struggles to come, because the struggle can’t stop.
So, if police brutality was no longer available, the struggle today was against the injustice of separating them from their adversaries, or, they tweeted it, their “encaging.” They tweeted: “A horrible feeling. What a shanda to encage women at the Kotel.”
More tweets: “Boker tov and chodesh tov! 250 of us are on our way to the Kotel! … We are entering the kotel with police escort … We have been caged off in the women’s section and the other women are taking pictures of us … Despite the shock of being enclosed and gawked at, our prayer is off to a beautiful start … What a frustrating, painful feeling. Women in a cage at the Kotel.”
Also: “As we pray we hear protest chants against us from men and women. There are more of Women of the Wall here than all other women combined.”
To which one unsympathetic follower tweeted: “Why don’t you stop tweeting and actually pray?”
Later: “During the Shema we remember that even though this month we are encaged, at least we are not being arrested”
And a surprise note: “Several rabbis have come down and ordered the men back to their yeshivot to learn. There is nothing to see here. Just women praying (and tweeting – YY).”
We’ll see what happens on the first of the month of Av, a month practically dedicated to Jew on Jew hatred. If you ask me, the proper response from Haredim and Modern Orthodox should be to cede the “holiest plaza” on that morning. Let it look like a ghost town – and let’s all of us go up to the Temple Mount for Rosh Chodesh prayer, complete with the priestly blessing.
Let’s show the world where Judaism’s holiest site truly is, and what Jews are capable of doing up there.