Vandals target Western Wall woman activist in Israel

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The stairwell and door to the apartment of a woman active in promoting egalitarian prayer at Jerusalem’s Western Wall were vandalized by unknown assailants, who scrawled threatening messages found on Monday.

“This is disturbing, scary, sad,” the activist Peggy Cidor told AFP.

“Women of the Kotel (Wall) are evil,” “Peggy your time is up” and “Jerusalem is holy” were among the slogans sprayed in black paint at her Jerusalem apartment.

The assailants also scrawled on the door: “Torah tag” -- a reference to “price tag” attacks which are usually carried out by extremist Jews against Palestinians.

Cidor is a longtime activist in the Woman of the Wall group, which has for more than 20 years demanded to be allowed to pray using their form of liberal Judaism at the site, while wearing fringed prayer shawls and other religion-related objects and reading from Torah scrolls.

Earlier this month, the group held a landmark prayer at the site after a court ruled they could pray according to their beliefs.

Police held back 1,000 ultra-Orthodox Jewish men trying to disrupt the prayer, some of them yelling and hurling objects at the women. Five of the men were arrested.

The women say access to the Wailing Wall, the most sacred spot at which Jews can pray, should be open to all streams of Judaism, including the Reform and Liberal branches which accord women an equal place alongside men and equal practices.

They demand to be allowed to wear prayer shawls and phylacteries -- small boxes fastened to the body by leather straps -- and to read aloud from a Torah scroll.

Monday’s vandalism was strongly condemned by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat as well as ultra-Orthodox rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinowitz.

“This is not the way of the Torah, which is peaceful,” Rabinowitz said. “I call on all extremist groups to step away from this holy site.”

Cidor squarely blamed the ultra-Orthodox leadership for the incident, and warned of an escalation in attacks against her group

“This is a sad, direct and predictable result of the incitement of the leadership,” she said. “I’ve no interest in the bored teenagers who were looking for something to do at night.”

“If the ultra-Orthodox does not understand this is an act of blasphemy, we’ll have to deal with terrible things, much worse than a dirty stairwell,” she said.

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