Monday, February 11, 2013

Israeli Police Detain 10 Jewish Women In Conflict Over Egalitarian Prayer Customs At Western Wall

In Israel, the ongoing struggle over Jewish women's rights to egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem continues.  The New York Times and the Jerusalem Post report that earlier today ten women were detained by police after the women prayed there wearing the type of prayer shawls (tallitot) traditionally worn by men.  The Orthodox Jewish authorities who control activities at the Western Wall allow women to wear colorful "female style" prayer shawls that resemble a scarf, but do not allow "male tallitot" which are blue and white or black and white and are worn folded across the shoulders. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that worshipers at the Western Wall must "uphold the customs" of the site. The group known as Women of the Wall have gathered once a month for the last 24 years on Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of each Jewish month) to challenge the Orthodox limitations on women's rights there.  Police confiscated male prayer shawls carried by women through security check points, but men sympathetic to their cause smuggled in prayer shawls for them to wear.

With the women praying at the Wall today were veterans from the 1967 Six Day War who fought at the Western Wall.  Those detained by police-- after prayers were completed and they were exiting the site-- included two U.S. rabbis, an American-born Israeli Reform Rabbi who is the sister of comedienne Sarah Silverman, and a pregnant rabbinical student. Apparently some of the women did not agree to the conditional release that typically includes a bar on them from entering the Western Wall Plaza for 15 days.

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