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The Tables Turn at the Western Wall

A Rosh Hodesh marked by arrests and protests

Adam Chandler
May 10, 2013

As we noted in Daybreak (and Sundown yesterday), this month’s Rosh Hodesh service at the Western Wall was slated to be something of a turning point in the struggle between the religious groups that worship there. And a turning point it was. Given cover by a recent Jerusalem district court ruling, the female worshipers–led by the Women of the Wall–were protected by Israeli police, a change from previous months when the group’s Rosh Hodesh services had been marked by arrests and detainments.

Instead, it was a few ultra-Orthodox men (among the thousands protesting) who were arrested as rocks and chairs were hurled at the women and whistles were blown in an attempt to drown out the prayer. The women worshipers, previously the insurgents, were able to complete their service before being escorted away from the Western Wall and out of the Old City by police.

It’s difficult to tell what will come next; despite the court ruling, earlier this week, the Israeli attorney general seemed to say that the court ruling would not constitute a permanent answer to the issue, which has polarized the Israeli public in recent months. Judging by today’s violence, it’s remains unlikely that the status quo will persist.

In the meantime, a press release from the Women of the Wall thanked the police (at least two were injured) for their efforts and added this:

The most moving part of the service was the blessings and celebration of a young Bat mitzvah girl. After reciting the traditional blessings, she sat on the shoulders of a woman while celebrating and dancing, as is traditional for the coming of age ceremony. Hoffman relates, “We are proud to be the women whose shoulders on which this young girl can stand, to celebrate her bat mitzvah at the Kotel and to pray here safely for years to come.”

For a somewhat surreal look at the events today, this video captures some of the two-hour event.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.