JERUSALEM (JTA) – A haredi Orthodox Knesset member compared the Women of the Wall organization to the Muslim Murabitat, a banned group of women who harass Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount.
“The Murabitat women receive money from the Islamic Movement to create provocation and prevent Jews from ascending the Temple Mount,” Rabbi Yisrael Eichler of the United Torah Judaism party said. “Whereas the Women of the Wall get money from the Reform Jews to create disturbances at the Western Wall.”
Eichler made his comments Sunday during a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He said in response to criticism from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he made the statement in order to see that it was recorded into the minutes of the meeting, the Israeli daily Maariv reported.
The Murabitat is outlawed in Israel.
Knesset members Zehava Gal-on of the Meretz party and Shelly Yachamovich of the Zionist Union denounced Eichler at the meeting.
“Eichler represents a very extreme Jewish minority who see the Kotel as their own private synagogue,” Women of the Wall said in a statement. “Women of the Wall’s struggle threatens this ‘Haredi Kotel’ vision, and in his perspective, anyone who does not agree with him is the enemy. If it were up to Eichler, women would be all together excluded from the Kotel or forced to dress up like the Taliban in order to enter.”
Women of the Wall gathers at the Western Wall at the start of each Jewish month for the morning prayer service. Its members have clashed frequently with staff from the office of the rabbi of the Western Wall and the holy sites of Israel, and with police for holding services that violate the rules enforced by the office.
A 2013 Supreme Court ruling acknowledged the women’s right to pray at the Western Wall according to their beliefs, claiming it does not violate what has come to be known as “local custom.”