Jerusalem - Police Detain Women at Kotel over Prayer Shawls
"Women of the Wall" arrive at the Kotel for prayer group, say officers told them to remove prayer shawls, then detained them.
Three women from the Women of the Wall organization were briefly detained by police Tuesday morning, the group said, for wearing prayer shawls, or talitot, at the Western Wall plaza.
Jerusalem deputy police spokeswoman Shlomit Bajshi denied any altercations at the Western Wall on Tuesday morning and said no women were taken for questioning or arrested.
According to a 2001 law, it is illegal for women to perform religious practices at holy sites traditionally done by men in Orthodox Jewish practice, such as reading from a Torah scroll, wearing tephillin or a prayer shawl, or blowing the shofar (ram’s horn).
Approximately 40 women from the Women of the Wall group, which campaigns for equal rights at the Western Wall plaza, went to the site Tuesday morning, the first day of the new month, to pray.
According to Sarit Horwitz, 26, one of the women stopped by the police, a policewoman approached her during the group’s prayer service and told her to adjust the talit she was wearing because she was wearing it as a man does. A male officer then adjusted the talit for her without her permission.
Upon exiting the plaza, three women, including Horwitz, were briefly detained by the police who took their personal identification and contact details, although they did not give a specific reason for the demand.
The women were told that they would be contacted in order to present themselves to the police for further investigation and questioning because they had “offended the law.”
“It’s frightening to me that a woman wearing a talit is a criminal threat to the state of Israel,” Horwitz told The Jerusalem Post. “I’m leaving the country in a week and a half and I hope when I come back Israel will be a more religiously tolerant and understanding place.”
Horwitz is a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary of Conservative Judaism in New York and has been in Israel for a year, studying at the Shechter Institute, a pluralistic Jewish studies seminary, as part of her rabbinical studies course.