Fresh clashes erupt between Ultra-Orthodox and Reform Jews at Western Wall
AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner
A reform delegation seeking to hold a Torah-reading service clashed with ultra-Orthodox worshippers at Jerusalem’s Western Wall on Thursday, in the latest confrontation between religious denominations in Israel.
In what was supposed to be a special prayer ceremony at the temporary egalitarian space, a group of some one hundred and fifty Reform Jews from Israel and overseas arrived at the holy site to pay their respects to the appointment of four new rabbis.
According to the ultra-Orthodox Kikar Hashabat website, the group of Reform Jews reportedly forced their way past security guards and entered the plaza where they began to dance and sing the Israeli national anthem. Carrying eight Torah scrolls they made their way to the upper plaza where security guards tried to prevent their access resulting in the brawl.
Western Wall administrators perceived their actions to be provocative, accusing them of performing a public stunt.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Reform movement said, “many of those holding Torah scrolls were hit and punched by the guards.”
It was “one of the most violent” events he had seen at the site he added when later detained by police for questioning, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
Alongside representatives of the board of governors at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, Women of the Wall members, a Jewish women's group that fights for women's rights to pray and read from the Torah at the Western Wall, a privilege reserved only for men, were also present.
“While I was holding the Torah scroll, an ultra-Orthodox man came at me from behind and tried to grab it out my hand,” said Anat Hoffman, chairman of the feminist prayer group told Haaretz.
She also witnessed a security guard threaten to spray Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, with mace if he made any further advances with the scroll.
Tensions over the rights to pray at the Western Wall have grown increasingly strained since the Israeli government suspended its agreement to establish an egalitarian prayer space at the wall. Reform activists have long called for the creation of a mixed-gender, non-Orthodox prayer section, where women would also be permitted to pray with scrolls and hold religious ceremonies.
Orthodox groups believe that creating such a space, defies ancient Jewish law and tradition.
Speaking at the Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA) General Assembly in Los Angeles last week, President Reuven Rivlin lamented that “it causes such pain that the symbol of unity, the Wall or our Tears and Joy, has become a symbol of division and disagreement."
As the Reform Jewish community continues to seek equality and quell the Orthodox monopoly are increasingly stymied by party politics, those that share their stance in the diaspora are speaking out. The JFNA on Monday passed a resolution slamming the “divisive and damaging steps” taken by the Israeli government that includes the Conversion Bill.
The highly contested bill guarantees an ultra-Orthodox monopoly over conversion to Judaism while non-Orthodox rabbinical conversions are not recognized by the state of Israel, and as such, non-Israelis who convert to Judaism under private auspices would not be eligible for citizenship.
The bill has been slammed by non-Orthodox Israelis and American Jews who say it is damaging to Jewish pluralism.
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We have to observe the Tora law not reform or orthodox or conservative , but the Orthodox laws are are part of Tora . When you are formed as a Jew by law of Judaism which is required , no way you can reform it no body can change the law of Tora and law of Judaism . How can you form and change it to reform either you are gold , silver or copper , pure gold is pure gold , pure silver is pure silver and pure copper is pure copper . Imagine if you have 4 carat gold or 6 carat gold will you call that gold of course not , we as a Jew cannot change the law of Judaism but the reform they want to form their own way , well my dear Jewish friend it’s very important to know the laws of Judaism than do what’s right . I can’t change it neither you or anyone else , the reform movement created by the radicals to change the truth only 200 years ago but we are people of the time of fathers Abraham Isaac and Jacob to follow to their Foot step thank you and bliss you all please learn the True Tora not your own way of Tora which is Too Holly for us to change thank you all .A true convert is a pure Jew as long as practice the laws of Judaism please to read what us the laws of conversion than practice it that’s all we all came from our for fathers which was a convert Abraham that’s what we have the follow our Tora law . Not your way my way if we all do that way we are going to be in Hugh way not the True Tora way thank you all and Shabat Shalom .