FaithWorld

Jerusalem police shield Jewish women activists in confrontation at Western Wall

May 10, 2013

(Israeli policemen block ultra-Orthodox Jewish women as members of “Women of the Wall” group (not pictured) leave the Western Wall after a monthly prayer session at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City May 10, 2013. REUTERS/Amir Cohen )

Israeli police held back thousands of ultra-conservative Jews who tried to drive liberal women worshippers from Judaism’s sacred Western Wall on Friday, marking a shift in the authorities’ handling of a long-running religious schism.

Ultra-Orthodox protesters dressed in traditional dark clothing threw chairs and water at the women, then later stoned their buses. Two policemen were hurt.

Previously police detained members of Women of the Wall, a group challenging the Orthodox monopoly over rites at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, for wearing prayer shawls in violation of Orthodox tradition.

This time police arrested five religious protesters instead.

The police response followed a court ruling last month that found that the group was not in violation of the law.

The issue is at the heart of a long struggle between a secular majority and an ultra-Orthodox minority over lifestyle in a country where institutions such as marriage, divorce and burial are controlled by religious authorities.

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