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Israel detains women for wearing prayer shawls at holy site
Published Monday 11/02/2013 (updated) 13/02/2013 14:46
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The Western Wall is administered under strict Orthodox ritual law,
which bars women from wearing prayer shawls or publicly reading
from the holy scriptures. (MaanImages/File)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Israeli police detained 10 women at one of Judaism's most sacred sites on Monday for wearing prayer shawls, which Orthodox tradition sees as solely for men, a spokesman said.

The incident at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City highlighted the divisions between the more liberal streams of Judaism and politically powerful Orthodox groups that traditionally limit the role of women in prayer.

The Western Wall is administered under strict Orthodox ritual law, which bars women from wearing prayer shawls or publicly reading from the holy scriptures.

Among those held was Susan Silverman, a reform rabbi who is a sister of US comedian Sarah Silverman. Two other American citizens and Israeli members of "Women of the Wall", a group that campaigns for gender equality in religious practice, were also detained.

The group routinely convenes for monthly prayer sessions at the Western Wall, revered by Jews as a perimeter wall of the Biblical Temple in Jerusalem. Some of its members have been detained by police in the past for wearing prayer shawls at the site and released without charge.

Susan Silverman, who immigrated to Israel from Boston, said police escorted the group, including her 17-year-old daughter, to a station after they refused to remove prayer shawls.

The rabbi said in a telephone interview from the police station where the group was held that they had been among more than 100 women attending the hour-long prayer session.

"They (police) said 'take off your prayer shawls', and we said 'no'," Silverman said. Once the prayers were over they were escorted away, she said.

Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for national police, said the women had acted "against regulations set by the High Court", citing a decision of a decade ago upholding Orthodox rules at the site to avoid friction between worshipers.

Silverman said the Orthodox tradition barring women from wearing prayer shawls amounted to "spitting on Sinai", naming the site where the Bible says God handed the ancient Israelite leader Moses the 10 Commandments.

"All Jews are in a covenant with God," regardless of their gender, she said.
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1 ) Democracy / EU
11/02/2013 20:01
So this is how the "only democratic state in the Middle East" behaves? Hmmmm...

2 ) Outlier / USA
11/02/2013 20:15
Time (actually, well past time) for Orthodox tradition (and Israel's High Court) to join the 21st century.

3 ) Colin Wright / USA
12/02/2013 05:52
Good stuff. Love to see Israel winning friends and influencing people. I recommend some jail time. Hang tough...

4 ) Robert / US
12/02/2013 07:00
Women are treated like 2rate citizens in Israel and they have the nerve to talk about others what pile.

5 ) Rami / Palestine
12/02/2013 13:58
Sarah Silverman made a very public stink about this...her sister was one of those who were detained. Not a good PR tool, Israel.

6 ) Mel / USA
12/02/2013 18:20
Excuse me Ma'an!Where's my post regarding Jewish Orthodoxy not being so concerned about Jewish women donning ISRAELI ARMY UNIFORMS & carrying WEAPONS in their hands instead of prayers?Or,Orthodoxy concern re:radical Jewish women attacking,insulting,spitting on Palestinian women&children!Great"democracy"Israel!Jewish women can erect aparthied walls/racist check points,but can't stand as shawled equals at a prayer wall?How very'extremist'of Israel!Which is it Israel?Democracy,or THEOCRACY?

7 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
12/02/2013 19:32
Well, not as bad as being a Jew visiting a holy site in the west bank and getting shot and killed by Palestinian police. But then again, we all know that the state of Palestine will cure the problem since it will be an apartheid state with no Jews allowed, so no problems!

8 ) Robert / US
12/02/2013 23:40
Well said Mel.

9 ) Rami / Palestine
13/02/2013 09:33
#7 Kinda like what Israel is currently doing with non-Jews, Christians, Muslims, Arabs, Africans....Palestine is transitioning towards a democratic sovereign state occupied by a foreign country. Meanwhile Israel already claims to a "democratic" state and currently white-washing itself of all non-Jews.

10 ) Maureen / Australia
13/02/2013 11:09
Israeli police detain Jewish women wearing prayer shawls. A gentle activity such as a Jewish woman wearing a prayer shawl is not acceptable, but a Jewish woman dressed in an army uniform ready for battle/killing is O.K.? Yep, that's Israel!!
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