Police arrested a 17-year-old youth on Thursday for posting a question on a religious online forum asking whether it was permissible to fire a weapon at women from the Women of the Wall organization, which seeks to enable women to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem just as men do. The arrest came after the group complained to police.
The organization plans to return to the Western Wall on Sunday with prayer shawls, tefillin and prayer books to celebrate the first day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, and is preparing for the ultra-Orthodox protests that will likely await it.
Women of the Wall representatives met on Thursday with the Jerusalem district police chief, who told them that police estimate that some 10,000 haredim from various ultra-Orthodox communities will demonstrate against the group.
"I look forward to the day when women go to pray at the Wall and this will simply be taken for granted," said Women of Wall chairwoman Anat Hoffman.
Many Orthodox religious groups oppose women wearing tallitot and tefillin and reading from the Torah at the Western Wall, one of Jerusalem's holy spaces. Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky presented a plan to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that involved building a separate prayer space in the area known as Robinson's Arch, to accommodate egalitarian services. Still, some in Women of the Wall say they do not want to pray together with men, and aim to be allowed to pray as they wish in the women's section of the Western Wall plaza.
At last month's gathering, police detained five women because they defied a court order, donning prayer shawls and reading from the Torah to the consternation of Orthodox worshippers. Some spouted offensive slurs, spat, and shoved the activists.
Soon afterward, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that women can legally don tallitot and pray out loud at the wall, a ruling that the Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein said he would not appeal.