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Attack On Non-Orthodox Prayers at Western Wall Shows Israel Is Only Western Country Where Jews Do Not Have "Freedom of Worship"

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
August 2022

A group of non-Orthodox Jews celebrating a bar mitzvah at the Western Wall’s  
egalitarian prayer space were assaulted late in June by ultra-Orthodox  
protestors. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (July 7, 2022), “Dozens  
of haredi Orthodox men and teenage boys entered the scene aggressively to  
harass and intimidate the participants, shouting down the prayers, calling the  
gathered Jews ‘Nazis,’ ‘animals,’ and ‘Christians,’ and ripping up their prayer  
books…The incident, which took place on June 30, was only the latest in an  
ongoing series of harassments of non-Orthodox Jews by haredi men opposed to  
egalitarian prayer at the wall and Israel’s other holy sites. Just prior to the  
bar mitzvah disruption, the activist group Women of the Wall had been blocked  
from bringing a Torah into the women’s plaza, as it seeks to do monthly.”  
The JTA notes that, “Two things set it apart: its location, at the tiny,  
peripheral plaza that has been carved out as a safe haven for non-Orthodox Jews  
who want to pray in a mixed gender setting at Judaism’s holiest site, and the  
crudeness captured on camera. Those details have prompted especially strong and  
lasting reactions—-and denunciations from Israel’s prime minister and a fierce  
debate over whether the U.S. State Department should treat harassment of Jews by  
other Jews as anti-Semitism.”  
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said, “Israel is the only Western country in  
which Jews do not have freedom of worship.” Deborah Lipstadt, the Holocaust  
scholar newly appointed State Department anti-Semitism monitor, suggested that  
what took place at the Western Wall was indeed anti-Semitism. Lipstadt noted,  
“Let us make no mistake, had such a hateful incident happened in any other  
country, there’d be little hesitation in labeling it anti-Semitism.”  
David Schraub, a law professor at Lewis and Clark University, wrote: “Is it  
anti-Semitism to attack Jews engaging in Jewish ritual at a Jewish holy site?  
When you phrase it that way, the answer is clearly yes. The only reason it  
wouldn’t be is if you think it gets some sort of exception because of who the  
attackers are.”  
Arie Hasit, an Israeli Masorti/Conservative rabbi who was working with the  
American bar mitzvah celebrant, posted on Facebook that he was “broken” over the  
haredi (ultra-Orthodox) youths’ treatment of the bar mitzvah group. Some people  
hate me and are willing to hurt me because of my Judaism.”  
Prime Minister Lapid declared, “I am against all violence at the Western Wall  
against people who want to pray as their faith allows them. This cannot  
Union for Reform Judaism head Rabbi Rick Jacobs and United Synagogue of  
Conservative Judaism Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal wrote in their letter to Lapid: “We  
represent millions of Jews who cannot tolerate such behavior, who are tired of  
being treated as second class citizens at the Wall.” They called on Lapid to  
implement the so-called ‘Western Wall Compromise,’ a plan that would expand and  
make permanent the Kotel’s egalitarian prayer section…The agreement has  
languished in the Knesset for years because it is staunchly opposed by the  
country’s religious right.” **

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