Israeli police officers are for the first time protecting women who want to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, marking a sharp shift in policy.
Members of a group called Women of the Wall (WOW) have gathered once a month to pray at the site, angering members of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community, who argue that women should not lead prayers. Women have been verbally abused and assaulted while police did little to stop the violence.
In early November, police led members of WOW to the wall and kept them separated from ultra-Orthodox men, reported Religion News Service (RNS).
Members of WOW say they believe the change has occurred due to Israel’s new government. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has vowed to focus on religious pluralism, and his coalition government includes no ultra-Orthodox parties.
“We feel a difference in the government, a commitment that there won’t be bloodshed at the wall,” Anat Hoffman, chair of WOW, told RNS. “In the past, we felt that the police weren’t protecting us. Today’s level of protection was unprecedented.”