Board of Deputies anger over ‘disturbing harassment’ of women at Western Wall
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Board of Deputies anger over ‘disturbing harassment’ of women at Western Wall

Explanation demanded from World Zionist Organisation over targeting of women praying at holy site.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

2H51C51 A member of the Women of the Wall holds a Torah scroll, as security forces hold back Ultra-Orthodox Jews protesting their prayer at the Western Wall on November 05, 2021 in Jerusalem, Israel. The Women of the Wall is a feminist prayer group that holds a monthly prayer session at the Western Wall and have consistently claimed that there is no single "custom of the place" and that their right to pray is a religious freedom enshrined in Israeli law
2H51C51 A member of the Women of the Wall holds a Torah scroll, as security forces hold back Ultra-Orthodox Jews protesting their prayer at the Western Wall on November 05, 2021 in Jerusalem, Israel. The Women of the Wall is a feminist prayer group that holds a monthly prayer session at the Western Wall and have consistently claimed that there is no single "custom of the place" and that their right to pray is a religious freedom enshrined in Israeli law

The Board of Deputies president has written an unprecedented letter to the chair of World Zionist Organisation demanding an “explanation and calling for urgent remedial action” over the violent harassment of women praying at the Western Wall.

Board president Marie van der Zyl say it understands those responsible for the harassement, during the Women of the Wall group’s monthly service, were “brought to the event under the auspices of the WZO.”

Marie van der Zyl

It her strongly worded letter, van der Zyl names two specific WZO’s departments as being at the centre of the incidents.

The letter, also sent to Michael Siegal, chairman of the board of governors of the Jewish Agency,  adds: “The Kotel is a holy place for Jews of all denominations and its sanctity must be respected along with the right of all Jews to pray there.”

The Board’s president then says she is “extremely distressed that the WZO, a national institution with such an illustrious history, would have engaged in an action that so clearly antithetical to its values.”

She then demands an “explanation for this extremely disturbing incident” with an assurance that WZO will not engage in such conduct in the future.

Photos from earlier this month showed a woman raising a WZO flag before disruptions to the monthly Rosh Chodesh service by the Women of the Wall took place.

There were claims ultra-orthodox girls had been bussed into the Kotel, who then engaged in pushing, shouting and even spitting at the women attempting to pray.

In a complaint sent to WZO president Yaakov Hagoel immediately after their morning prayer service, leaders of Women of the Wall wrote: “We are stunned and pained by the fact that we have been cursed, hit and spat on this morning by ultra-Orthodox seminary girls carrying WZO flags. We don’t understand how and why you approved such an event. What were you thinking when you joined forces with Liba, which has been fighting us with violence for years? Why did you co-operate with an extremist organization that wants to harm worshippers at the Western Wall?”

Siegal, chairman of the board of governors of the Jewish Agency, was also sent the letter.

The WZO said in a statement that together with other groups, it had organized several events to mark Israeli Independence Day. “Anything else attributed to us is groundless,” it said. “We view gravely any attempt to create a provocation over these festive events.”

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