Knesset Members Stav Shaffir, Tamar Zandberg and Michal Rozin on Tuesday joined the monthly prayer service held by the Women of the Wall at the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem.
The Women of the Wall have been holding monthly prayer services at the Western Wall for the past 24 years. They do so while donning a tallit – the traditional Jewish prayer shawl – which is illegal for women visiting the site, and often results in their arrest.
However, the presence of the MKs prevented the Jerusalem District Police from arresting any of the women on Tuesday as the MKs have parliamentary immunity.
Officers with the Kotel Guard, the special force tasked with maintaining public order at the Western Wall Plaza, attempted to prevent Shaffir from entering the premises, but she insisted on her right to pray there while wearing a tallit.
The prayer service itself was held under police protection, as the women were subjected to harsh expletives by the other worshipers at the site.
Shaffir stressed the importance of maintaining the rights of all Jewish worshipers in the holy site: "At first, the [police] tried to stop us from entering the plaza, saying that we would be causing a public disturbance, but there is nothing 100 women armed with a tallit can't do. Surrounded by police officers, and with the haredi men yelling at us from across the fence, with stood before the Western Wall and prayed."
Shaffir said that while she does not normally don the Jewish prayer shawl, "I felt a great sense of duty, as well as a sense of privilege, to stand here and make sure that every Jew in the world is free to pray as they see fit. It is inconceivable that one faction of Judaism will assume ownership over the holiest place for Jews worldwide."
According to Shaffir, "While there are real differences between the various factions in Judaism on the correct way to worship God, we have to remember that there is more bringing us together that there is pulling us apart, and that the least we can do is allow every man and every woman to pray according to their conscience."
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz commented on the prayer service: "Today, the first of [the Jewish month of] Nisan we witnessed harsh scenes, the likes of which have not been seen in the Western Wall Plaza since its liberation. A group of women, seeking to express their world view, chose to make the Western Wall the site of their protest and create an unnecessary conflict.
"Their actions are against the law and are in violation of a High Court of Justice ruling as well as the attorney general's directives, especially since they were given permission to hold their services near Robinson's Arch," he said, referring to an area along the western wall of the Temple Mount, which is at a distance from the Western Wall Plaza.
Rabinowitz said that the Women of the Wall "insist on holding their services in the women's gallery, while offending the other worshipers. Their actions will inflict upon Jerusalem the civil war that was once its destruction.
"The Western Wall is the one place shared by all the people of Israel and it is not the place to make statements or express world views. I urge all those who care about the Western Wall to call to keep any disputes outside the plaza and to leave the people of Israel one place that is free of protest, riots and hatred."