Women of the Wall: Female Worshippers Demanding Equal Rights Booed at Judaism's Holiest Site

Traditional worshippers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem booed and heckled female protesters demanding equality for women at the holy site on Monday, in an escalation of an ongoing battle over prayer rights led by the group Women of The Wall.

Members of the liberal pressure group, which advocate that women be allowed to wear prayer shawls and pray out loud at the Western Wall, were greeted by an onslaught of whistles and shouts as they worshipped.

At one point, in what was seen as unprecedented intensification of the standoff, a men's service that began on the opposite side of a barrier which separates the sexes at the Western Wall led prayers using a megaphone. Worshippers with the Women of the Wall group, visibly angered, believe the megaphone was deliberately used to drown out their service, the Jerusalem Post reported.

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Orthodox worshippers are opposed to women wearing prayer shawls and praying out loud, usually the preserve of men at the Western Wall. The Liba Center spearheading the protests against the Women of the Wall say they are protecting the traditional Jewish character of the site. According to the Times of Israel the rival, traditional protesters who numbered as many as 2,000 gathered under a banner reading: "Safeguarding of the Holiness of the Western Wall."

The protesters are focused on the creation of a pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall, frozen by the Israeli government in June and now being discussed in the country's Supreme Court. The plans to create an egalitarian prayer area were passed in 2016 but postponed under pressure from Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox groups.

The standoff over the creation of the equal area at Judaism's most holy site has exposed disagreements between the Jewish diaspora around the world, Israeli Jews and the Reform and Orthodox branches of the faith.

Members of the activist group "Women of the Wall" wear Jewish shawls, which the Orthodox Jewish community traditionally reserves for men, during a monthly prayer near the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City July 24, 2017 REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

"Every new month the Women of the Wall and the Reform movements desecrate the holiness of the Western Wall and put pressure on the Israeli government to give them standing at the Western Wall and in every religious issue in the state," literature distributed by the Liba Center at the protest read.

"With divine providence, the cabinet has taken a historic decision to freeze the Western Wall compromise and not to hand over part of the Western Wall to the Reform. Much to our sorrow, the Supreme Court is attempting to change the government decision and to give the Reform movement standing," it added.

However, liberal Rabbis want to ensure inclusiveness at the Western Wall. "We have to be vigilant to ensure that each and every Jewish man and woman from all Diaspora communities will feel at home at the Western Wall," Social Justice activist Rabbi Benny Lau told the Times of Israel.

In May, in a symbolic diplomatic set piece, Donald Trump became the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall. The president's wife Melania Trump also visited the site, as did daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner who are both practicing Orthodox Jews.