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Tisha B’Av at the Kotel to test how serious this gov’t is about religious pluralism

14 19 25

On Saturday night, Jews will gather at the egalitarian section of the Western Wall to read the Book of Lamentations, describing in horrid detail the destruction of the Jewish temple some 2,600 years ago — or at least they hope to.

Last year’s Tisha B’Av day of mourning, Orthodox extremists overran the egalitarian section, also known as Ezrat Yisrael or Robinson’s Arch, during the reading of Lamentations, known in Hebrew as Eicha. This was considered particularly heinous as Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of the two Jewish temples, the second of which is traditionally believed to have been brought down due to “baseless hatred” between Jews at the time. Comparisons between the “baseless hatred” that led to the temple destruction and the “baseless hatred” on display that night abounded.

Just over a month ago, a similar group of hardline Orthodox youths did it again, disrupting bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies being held by American families at Ezrat Yisrael, tearing up prayer books, calling the worshippers “Nazis” and “Christians,” and using whistles to drown out the services. Police officers who were at the scene largely refrained from intervening, only acting when there was an immediate threat of violence but doing nothing to halt the disruptions.

In between, there have been multiple cases of Orthodox activists setting up a gender-segregating barrier, or a mehitza, at the egalitarian section as a form of protest against the non-Orthodox prayer.

Though there was only muted criticism in Israel following the events of last Tisha B’Av and June 30. But after the latter — largely due to pressure from leading American and international Jewish organizations — Israeli politicians, namely Prime Minister Yair Lapid, issued firm denunciations of the disruptions and violent protests.

“I am against all violence at the Western Wall against people who want to pray as their faith allows them. This cannot continue,” Lapid said after the incident in late June.

The prime minister also called one of the bar mitzvah boys whose ceremony was overrun, telling him that what happened “did not represent the State of Israel, the people of Israel, or the government of Israel,” according to a source who was on the line.

During the phone call, Lapid called the violent protests “outrageous” and said that every Jew should be able to pray as they see fit, the source said, speaking to The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity.

On Saturday night, it will be clear if Lapid’s remarks were a true intention to ensure the rights of non-Orthodox Jews to pray undisturbed at the Western Wall’s egalitarian section or simply lip service.

“The prime minister and the government of Israel have a responsibility to maintain safety for worshippers in Israel,........

© The Times of Israel

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