Jerusalem police on Friday arrested five ultra-Orthodox Jewish men trying to disrupt landmark prayers by female Jewish activists at the Western Wall plaza in the Holy City.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP that 1,000 ultra-Orthodox men were being kept away from dozens of “Women of the Wall” activists conducting their monthly prayer using prayer shawls, after a court ruled they could do so.
“Until now five men have been arrested for public disturbances,” Rosenfeld said.
Ultra-Orthodox men tried to break through police lines and reach the women, some of them throwing water and bags of rubbish at the police and women.
The women activists have for more than 20 years demanded to be allowed to pray using their form of liberal Judaism at the site, while wearing fringed prayer shawls and other religion-related objects and reading from Torah scrolls.
But police, acting under court orders, would distance and detain them for conduct considered “provocative” to ultra-Orthodox believers, some of whom would accost the women, creating disturbances.
Last month, a court determined the women’s conduct was not causing disruption, rather it was those who were attacking them, and ruled that the Women of the Wall could pray at the site using their rites.
Ahead of Friday’s monthly prayer, ultra-Orthodox rabbis called on seminary students to gather at the Western Wall to counter the Women of the Wall, and thousands filled the women’s prayer section, forcing the activists to pray at the plaza not directly adjacent to the wall.