Going Too Far

I am very saddened by what happened today at the Western Wall.

Today, for the second month, Women of the Wall prayed at the Western Wall, without police arresting them for disturbing the peace and offending the feelings of their fellow worshipers.

This came after a ruling by Judge Sobell saying that there is nothing illegal in what the Women of the Wall are doing, because minhag hamakom does not necessarily mean Orthodox custom, and that what they’re doing does not offend the feelings of their fellow worshipers.

Last month, thousands of religious and traditional Jews showed up to the Kotel to show that they are very disturbed by what the Women of the Wall are doing: they are showing a supreme lack of respect for tradition at the Western Wall, the place that has always kept us together as a Jewish nation. There were lots of emotions running high, people scared that the place they consider holy and hold dearest will be transformed into something alien and desecrated. Unfortunately, among the thousands, some small pockets of troublemakers made problems, and that is what the media chose to focus on, not the thousands who were there, passionately and peacefully for tradition.

No one wanted a repeat of last month.

Women for the Wall, a group started by Leah Aharoni and me, dedicated to respectfully standing up for tradition at the Western Wall, made an effort to make this month’s Rosh Chodesh a peaceful one, working with political figures in the chareidi community to try to keep things calmer. Many plans were made, and we were expecting thousands.

Everything was calm at the Kotel today. Everything was quiet and empty.

This was the doing of the police. They also did not want a repeat of last month. The Women of the Wall were bused in and provided with a police escort and bodyguards. Tens of police and border patrol units were on duty — all there to protect the group of provocateurs who have stated that they want to change the Kotel into a national monument.

Very few were in the Kotel plaza to stand up for their beliefs, because the police banned chareidim and any obviously religious people from coming to the Kotel past a certain time. Friends of mine who traveled from other cities to show that they stood with the Women for the Wall were blocked by police barricades and forbidden to enter.

Thousands of worshipers who come to pray at the Kotel on a regular basis, many daily, were forbidden to enter this holy ground. For the first time since ’67, Jews were barred from the Kotel.

Why? For the sake of keeping peace and allowing a small group of mostly Americans to pray unhindered in a spot that most of them do not even consider holy, do not consider to be anything more than just “a wall” and not deserving of respect.

The entire Old City of Jerusalem was shut down. Children who learn in the Old City but live elsewhere were unable to get to school today, as non-residents were barred.

Egged buses were canceled to the Kotel, and roads were closed.

All for the sake of a small group of troublemakers.

Freedom of religion is what they claim to be fighting for. Should that come at the expense of the freedom of religion of others? Should thousands of worshipers be banned from the Kotel, making it nearly Judenrein? Don’t people who feel otherwise deserve to be able to express their feelings about the issue — freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of expression?

Should the overburdened Israeli taxpayers be funding the heavy outlay for the large police presence to protect a group like the Women of the Wall, many of whom are not Israeli citizens and do not even pay for such expenses?

Today was a sad day for the Jewish people, when the Israeli government suppressed and forbade thousands from praying in their usual manner at their usual spot in favor of a small group of provocateurs.

Yes, peace at the Kotel is important. But this is just going too far.


Ronit Peskin, a writer and social media maven, is co-founder of Women For the Wall, a grassroots movement of women dedicated to preserving the traditional sanctity of the Western Wall. She lives with her family in Kochav Yaakov, a settlement on the outskirts of Jerusalem.