Women of the Wall activists attacked, prayerbook burned

Activists from the feminist organization were violently attacked during the group‘s monthly prayer service at the Western Wall Friday morning, members of the group told The Jerusalem Post.

A mob of haredi men threw rocks at activists, a Jewish prayerbook bearing the Women of the Wall insignia was burned, and a young American intern for the organization had to seek medical treatment for wounds to the head and neck, activists said.

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The group of some 200 activists, dressed in the ritual prayer shawls and yarmulkes that traditional Judaism proscribes only for men, had gathered at the Western Wall to mark the beginning of the Hebrew month of Av. During the service, ultra-orthodox women in the same gender-segregated section of the Western Wall plaza harassed the Women of the Wall activists, the organization said in a statement released Friday.

"Police and guards from the Western Wall Heritage Foundation surrounded the plaza, looking on without taking action against the attackers," the statement said.

When the group left the Western Wall plaza, they encountered an angry mob of haredi men.

"Some of the haredim grabbed one of the women‘s kippahs and tried to burn it," said Hallel Silverman, a volunteer with the organization and the niece of well-known Jewish comedian Sarah Silverman. "They were yelling, ‘You should burn with it.‘"

"#Haredi Jews lit ‘s prayer books on fire at the Western Wall," Silverman tweeted. "Yes, Jews did this to other #Jews. When will we learn that we are stronger together?"

Shira Boyar, an intern with the organization from Sharon, Massachusetts and an incoming senior at Connecticut College, was physically assaulted.

"Some really large haredi [man] pulled me by my hair, pulled me back so I fell on the ground. And then he elbowed me really hard in the neck," Boyar said.

She recounted that the paramedic who later treated her for her wounds told Boyar that if she had been hit one centimeter to the left, her neck could have easily snapped.

Boyar and four friends fled the scene, but they were pursued by the mob. "My boyfriend tried to call the police," she said. "They asked, ‘Who‘s chasing you?‘ When he said, ‘Haredim,‘ they replied, ‘Oh, it‘s not Arabs? Okay, okay, we‘ll send someone when we can."

The police, she said, never arrived.

Founded in 1988, Women of the Wall seeks to secure women the right to pray equally, including wearing prayer shawls, yarmulkes and phylacteries, and reading from the Torah scroll, at the Western Wall, Judaism‘s holiest site.

Women of the Wall members are routinely harassed by women protesting their presence, and have been physically and verbally assaulted during their prayer services.

In recent months, the Women of the Wall group has been required to pray inside a police cordon within the women’s section, which the Western Wall Heritage Foundation says was required by a recent decision of the High Court of Justice.