Women of the Wall activists shoved, spat on at 30th anniversary event

Members of the Women of the Wall movement hold Rosh Hodesh prayers as thousands of ultra-Orthodox women protest against them at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, March 8, 2019. Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Protests by several thousand haredi Orthodox demonstrators turned into a melee as demonstrators spat on and shoved members of the egalitarian Women of the Wall group.

The protests Friday coincided with the 30th anniversary of the Women of the Wall group, who are seeking equal rights at the Western Wall for those who believe women and men should be allowed to worship according to their own customs and not those of the holy site’s Orthodox administrators.

In Orthodox Judaism, women and men pray separately, and some rites are performed exclusively by men. The Western Wall has a female-only plaza, a larger men-only plaza and, since 2000, a small egalitarian plaza where men and women can pray together.

About 6,000 haredi protesters had gathered at the men’s and women’s sections to protest the event held at the women’s section by 150 female activists of Women of the Wall, according to the Israel Broadcasting Corp., or Kan.

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At the women’s section, the Women of the Wall worshippers said they were spat upon and shoved by girls attending religious seminaries, according to the report. Amid attempts by police to prevent escalation, the Women of the Wall activists moved to the egalitarian plaza, known as the Ezrat Yisrael section.

Rabbi Noa Sattath, the director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the social justice arm of the Reform movement in Israel, was lightly injured in the scuffle.

The director general of the Masorti movement in Israem Yizhar Hess, was spat upon, according to Kan.