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Women of the Wall, shielded by police, raises Torah scroll and blows shofar

JTA

August 7, 2013 | 9:08 am

Jewish female activists from the Women of the Wall prayer rights group, blow shofars, or antelope's horns, a practice performed by men in the Orthodox tradition, during a monthly prayer session near the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem's Old City on August 7. Photo by REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Jewish female activists from the Women of the Wall prayer rights group, blow shofars, or antelope's horns, a practice performed by men in the Orthodox tradition, during a monthly prayer session near the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem's Old City on August 7. Photo by REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Women of the Wall blew a shofar at the back of the Western Wall Plaza and raised a Torah scroll at the plaza’s gate under a heavy police barricade.

The police shielded the the estimated 300 women and their male supporters on Wednesday morning at the back of the plaza, facing the wall but distant from it, during Women of the Wall’s monthly Rosh Chodesh service.

As many as six layers of fencing, a 15-foot buffer zone and two lines of police separated the group from a crowd of mostly haredi Orthodox protesters who blew whistles, screamed and chanted insults. In the men’s section of the plaza, a man chanted prayers and psalms into a megaphone, disrupting the women’s monthly Rosh Chodesh service.

As in recent months, thousands of mostly haredi Orthodox girls and young women packed the plaza adjacent to the wall and prayed quietly during the morning.

Women of the Wall has not been allowed to bring a Torah scroll into their monthly service, but before entering the plaza, the group sang together as one woman held a scroll aloft at the plaza’s gate.

By the time Anat Hoffman, the group’s chairwoman, blew the shofar at the end of the service, most of the protesters had dispersed.

Following the service, Hoffman said in a statement, “We will not forget that the Torah is exiled from the Western Wall, due to the discriminatory misuse of power by Rabbi [Shmuel] Rabinowitz,” the rabbi of the Western Wall.

Women of the Wall gathers at the beginning of each Jewish month for a women’s Rosh Chodesh prayer service at the wall. Members had been arrested in the past for wearing prayer shawls due to a law forbidding any practice that falls outside of the wall’s “local custom.”In April, a judge determined that the group’s activities did not contravene the law. Since then, none of the women has been arrested.

Last month, the women were barricaded in the plaza’s corner, far from the wall and next to a public restroom.

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