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Brawls broke out on Friday between thousands of young ultra-Orthodox Jews and a group of progressive Jewish women at the Western Wall in Jerusalem over their right to pray at one of Judaism’s holiest sites.
The ultra-Orthodox Jews tried to prevent the women from praying at the site on Friday to mark the 30th anniversary of Women of the Wall, a women’s prayer group that advocates for equality of worship at the Western Wall, where men and women currently have different sections and cannot pray together.
Women, who prayed while wearing religious clothing that ultra-Orthodox Jews believe is reserved only for men, were insulted, shouted and even spat on.
Police restrained the protesters who charged at the women and had to later escort the women to another area where non-traditional prayers take place in a bid to avoid further clashes.
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One man was arrested for attacking an officer while there were multiple injuries following the clashes. The Women’s group said on social media that two of their members had to get medical treatment.
Reports claim the progressive women's group was also opposed by over 10,000 ultra-Orthodox women on Friday morning, with one protesting girl telling Haaretz that religious schools bussed them to the holy site to make it harder for the progressive group to find space to pray.
Police later accused the women of "deliberately creating friction and provocation", although that statement was criticized by the Reform movement. Lesley Sachs, Women of the Wal director, accused the police of "brazenly lying".
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Reform movement in Israel, said that the police’s statement was a scandal itself.
“Someone in the police has apparently forgotten that the job of the police is to enforce rulings of the court and to protect women (and men) from violence,” he said. “We have no qualms about saying that the Israeli police collaborated this morning with the rabbi of the Western Wall and extremist and violent organization in order to prevent Women of the Wall from exercising their legal rights."
He added: “We expect the police to withdraw this false statement and apologize to Women of the Wall.”