As feminist prayer group Women of the Wall arrived at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Monday for a bat mitzvah ceremony and their monthly prayer service, they found their way blocked by crowds of dissenters.
The Women of the Wall have sparked extreme backlash in Israel for their petitions to change gendered restrictions at the Kotel, or Western Wall. They seek a space at the wall for women and men to pray together—currently, the Western Wall has only sex-segregated spaces. The group has also advocated for women’s right to read Torah at the Kotel.
This week, the Israeli government approved the creation of an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, a remnant of Herod the Great’s expansion of the Second Jewish Temple considered to be the holiest Jewish site.
The decision follows years of contentious debate between Orthodox Jews—who do not permit mixed-gender prayer—and Conservative and Reform Jews, who have lobbied for their right to egalitarian prayer.