A member of my congregation, Peter Marcus, has shared with me film footage taken by his uncle, Murray Rosenberg, a newsreel photographer, in 1911 when he visited Palestine. The entire film is worth watching, but the relevant footage at the Kotel (Western Wall in Jerusalem) begins at about the 19 minute mark (the film is courtesy of the Spielberg archive).
The film shows clearly that men and women prayed side by side at the Kotel a hundred years ago, without controversy.
The Western Wall was never considered an "orthodox synagogue" until the late 1960s when the plaza was cleared and a mechitzah (divider between men and women) was erected.
The most recent behavior of the Hareidim against "Women of the Wall" (WOW) who wish nothing except to pray and read Torah on Rosh Hodesh (the orthodox spit on the women, throw chairs, scream slanderous epithets, and behave like spoiled toddlers) is a source of shame to the Jewish people at this holiest site in Judaism.
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