De­spite PM’s plea, lib­eral Jews protest at holy site

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

JERUSALEM (AP): LEAD­ERS OF US and Is­raeli lib­eral Jewish move­ments ral­lied for equal prayer rights at a Jerusalem holy site yes­ter­day, march­ing past ul­tra-Or­tho­dox Jewish protesters who clashed with them and tried to snatch To­rah scrolls out of their arms.

The lib­eral groups ig­nored a sug­ges­tion by Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu that the Re­form and Con­ser­va­tive streams not pro­ceed with the pub­lic protest.

The heads of the two move­ments joined the lib­eral women’s prayer group Women of the Wall in the pro­ces­sion to the Western Wall, a rem­nant of the bib­li­cal tem­ple com­plex and the holi­est site where Jews can pray. Sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple par­tic­i­pated, hold­ing prayers and de­mand­ing that Is­rael fi­nally im­ple­ment a govern­ment de­ci­sion Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu to of­fi­cially es­tab­lish a mixed-gen­der prayer area at the site.

“It’s a dis­grace! There is no other way to de­fine it,” said a state­ment from the Union for Re­form Ju­daism. Or­tho­dox Ju­daism re­quires men and women to pray separately.

Ul­tra-Or­tho­dox Jews cursed and pushed the marchers as they car­ried To­rah scrolls to the holy site and into the women’s prayer sec­tion, an act that is pro­hib­ited at the site. The Western Wall is run by an ul­tra-Or­tho­dox rabbi who opposes lib­eral Jewish cus­toms there.

“Women of the Wall to­day of­fended thou­sands of male and fe­male wor­ship­pers when they held a mixed prayer protest in the women’s sec­tion, and de­based To­rah scrolls,” said Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabi­novich.

In Jan­uary, Is­rael’s govern­ment agreed to of­fi­cially recog­nise a mixed-gen­der prayer area at the Western Wall — a com­pro­mise reached af­ter Is­raeli and Amer­i­can Jewish lead­ers ne­go­ti­ated with Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties for more than three years. But the prayer site was never estab­lished.

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