Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews have attempted to prevent a liberal Jewish women's group from praying at a key Jerusalem holy site, leading to a tense confrontation between protesters and police.

The women gathered Friday to mark the 30th anniversary of Women of the Wall, a women's prayer group that seeks equality of worship at Judaism's holiest site, which coincides this year with International Women's Day.

The women wore religious attire that ultra-Orthodox tradition reserves for men and swayed in prayer as Orthodox men spit, shoved and shouted insults.

Police tried to restrain protesters charging at the women's prayer circle, and said they arrested one youth for attacking an officer.

The Israeli government, under pressure from ultra-Orthodox parties, scrapped plans for a mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall in 2017.