Things seem to be getting better in Jerusalem, where the group Women at the Wall has been pushing for the right to pray at the Western Wall wearing the traditional prayer shawls that men wear. Just a couple months ago, they were arresting the women, then a court ordered that they be allowed to pray and just a few weeks ago they had to brave a violent mob to do it. But now:
The story of Sunday morning’s events at the Western Wall is that there was no story.
About 300 Women of the Wall prayed in their own way, wrapped in prayer shawls and donning phylacteries, in the main women’s section. Several dozen meters from there, about 200 Haredim demonstrated. Hundreds of police stood between the camps, enforcing the law and keeping alert for friction that never materialized. Even four errant eggs that landed next to the group of men who support the Women of the Wall, and several shouts of “gevalt,” did not disturb the calm.
And the calm was exemplary. When the prayer session ended, Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of Women of the Wall, said that it was “a historic prayer.” In recent months she has repeatedly used the word “historic” to describe the events surrounding her group, and this time she may be right. The women prayed aloud in front of the Kotel, and there was an upheaval of the status quo at the site. They prayed almost undisturbed, closer than ever to the stones of the wall, with a police force protecting their right to pray in their own way, a right which is now anchored in a ruling of the Jerusalem District Court.
This is progress, though if I were those women I would not feel like I’m out of the woods yet. The Haredi are zealots and I would not be surprised to see the violent response ramp up again soon.