Ultra-Orthodox protesters clash with police at Western Wall over mixed-gender prayer

Most MKs on both sides cancel plans to come after President Herzog appeals for calm.

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

Ultra-Orthodox protesters clashed with police at the Western Wall as Women of the Wall made its monthly attempt to hold mixed-gender prayer service at the holy site on Friday morning.

The Women of the Wall group was eventually forced out of the plaza by security guards.

The Women of the Wall advocate pluralistic prayer at the holy site. On Rosh Hodesh, the first day of each Hebrew month, they try to hold mixed-gender services that draw Haredi protesters.

Under the rules of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which administers the holy site, visitors are not allowed to bring Torah scrolls from outside, and women are not allowed to chant from the Torah.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which administers the site, said in a statement, “Unfortunately, this group was constantly but unsuccessfully provocative. At the last moment, toward the end of the event, a small part of the group continued to try to instigate the crowd, despite repeated requests by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation that they abide by the regulations of the government’s legal advisor and Ministry of Justice. The group still did not desist so Western Wall Heritage Foundation staff and the Israel Police were forced to separate the groups.”

A number of Knesset members who planned on going to protest or defend the women’s group dropped out at the last minute at the request of President Isaac Herzog. On Thursday night, Herzog called on MKs not to go to help calm tensions.

This came after Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday retweeted a tweet by Shas leader Aryeh Deri calling on supporters to join the protest.

Last month, Gilad Kariv, a Labor MK and Reform rabbi smuggled a small Torah scroll into the Western Wall for Women of the Wall. Critics denounced Kariv for exploiting his parliamentary immunity.