Five women were arrested today for wearing tallits (prayer shawls) and tefillin (phylacteries) at the Kotel (Western Wall). The women were participating in a monthly prayer service held by Women of the Wall, a nonprofit that advocates for religious pluralism at the holy site.
5 More Women, 1 Haredi Man Arrested At Kotel
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Five women were arrested today for wearing tallits (prayer shawls) and tefillin (phylacteries) at the Kotel (Western Wall), Ha’aretz reports. The women were participating in a monthly prayer service held by Women of the Wall, a nonprofit that advocates for religious pluralism at the holy site.
A man was also reportedly arrested.
Approximately 150 women reportedly attended the Women of the Wall prayer service.
Fifteen minutes after it began, police arrested the five women. But other women who also were wearing tallits and/or tefillin at that time were not arrested. The five who were arrested are longtime members of Women of the Wall and are known to police: Lesley Sachs, director of Women of the Wall; Bonnie Ras, assistant director of communications for the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; Silvie Rosenbaum; Sharona Kramer; and Rabbi Valery Stessi, who was the first Conservative rabbi to be ordained in Israel, and who leads Jerusalem’s Maayanot Synagogue. All are reportedly Israeli citizens.
Police arrested the haredi man for burning what police thought was a Women of the Wall prayerbook. However, it actually was a Mormon pamphlet.
As the women prayed, a group of haredi men screamed at the women from the men’s section and chanted, “With our bodies, we will defend the Kotel! Reform Jews, get of here!”
Two Members of Knesset from the left wing Meretz Party participated in the Women of the Wall prayer service. They both wore tallits, but could not be arrested because they have parliamentary immunity.
"Natan Sharansky needs to know that if this continues, there is no basis for finding any compromise. The basis for any compromise is mutual respect, and the behavior we saw today [from the police, allegedly under the direction of the Kotel’s haredi rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovitch] will prevent any moving forward. We demand that the women who were detained be released immediately,” Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Movement for Progressive Judaism, told Ha’aretz.
Both Meretz MKs and the head of the Conservative Movement in Israel issued similar statements.
“[What happened this morning at the Kotel is] one more reminder of the urgent need to reach a permanent solution and make the Western Wall once again a symbol of unity among the Jewish people, and not one of discord and strife,” Sharansky reportedly said in a statement, adding that he hoped that the progress made toward his compromise solution to the problems of competing religious visions for the Kotel and the goodwill it has generated “will be translated into practical steps in the coming weeks.”
Sharansky’s compromise essentially shunts non-Orthodox and egalitarian groups and women’s prayer groups to the Robinson’s Arch area on the southern end of the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount, completely cut off from the Kotel proper by a large embankment and a ramp leading to a Temple Mount entrance. The site is the furthest from the actual site of where the Temple and its Holy of Holies once stood, and was never used for Jewish prayer.
Here is a video of the incident that took place last month when Women of the Wall came to pray at the Kotel: