Police in Jerusalem on Monday detained 10 women for wearing the tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl traditionally worn by men, while praying at the Western Wall.
The Women of the Wall have been fighting for years for permission to worship in the manner that men do at the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism for prayer. The stone structure is part of the retaining wall that surrounded the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.
Men and women both pray at the wall, but in separate sections and under rules set by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, a body appointed and funded by the government. It is headed by an ultra-Orthodox rabbi, Shmuel Rabinowitz.
Many of the women at the wall Monday gather regularly on the first day of the Jewish calendar month to pray — and just as regularly, police detain them.
Women are not supposed to wear religious items such as prayer shawls at the Western Wall — or at least that’s how the rabbi in charge interprets it, and police enforce his decision.
But Anat Hoffman, the leader of Women of the Wall, disagrees.
“Secular Israel, the democratic, Jewish state of Israel, has taken the keys to the holiest site of the Jewish people, and given it to one rabbi, who belongs to less than 8 percent of Israel’s population,” she says, referring to the country’s ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Hoffman had a male friend sneak in the prayer shawls. In the past, police have confiscated them. Then she and her supporters entered the women’s section, donned their shawls, and began to pray.
The security force for the site moved in quietly and told some of the women to come with them. But the women refused, and sat on the ground.
Police have arrested women for donning prayer shawls at the wall in the past, but left them alone for the time being.
On the men’s side of a mesh barrier, some male supporters chanted along with the women. But one man began yelling at them, saying Reform Jews don’t belong at the wall — Israel’s ultra-Orthodox do not recognize more liberal strains of Judaism. ….