Women’s blessing at in Jerusalem curtailed
JERUSALEM - The Associated PressA bid by a group of Jewish women to challenge tradition at Jerusalem’s Western Wall with a blessing usually conducted by men was curtailed yesterday after a decision by Israel’s attorney general.
The plan was the latest by the group, Women of the Wall, to push for equal prayer rights at the site, the holiest location where Jews are currently allowed to pray.
Around 50 women gathered on the plaza leading to the wall amid Passover celebrations and held prayers, though without carrying out the full blessing.
They prayed under heavy police guard as a crowd of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and boys in dark suits looked on and harangued them.
A decision from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on April 21 prohibited the first-ever “women’s priestly blessing” at the wall because it did not conform to local custom.
The ultra-Orthodox establishment that oversees the Western Wall strongly opposed the bid, viewing it as a desecration under their strict interpretation of Jewish law.
It had been unclear whether the women would defy the attorney general’s ruling, but yesterday they said police asked them to sign a document committing to not conduct the blessing, which they did.
They were also kept in a cordoned-off area around 50 meters from the wall itself, with police telling them it was necessary for their safety.
Previous prayers by Women of the Wall have led to harassment and abuse by ultra-Orthodox worshippers.
“In order to get our buses in, we signed that we will not raise our hands in the air, we will not bless the people of Israel and we will not put our (prayer shawls) over our heads,” Anat Hoffman of Women of the Wall told AFP at the site.
“It’s pretty demeaning, and it shows I think how grotesque and absurd the system is.”