JERUSALEM — Ten women participating in a women’s prayer service with hundreds of worshippers and supporters at the Western Wall were arrested for wearing prayer shawls.
Those arrested Monday morning included Israeli-American Rabbi Susan Silverman, sister of comedian Sarah Silverman, and her 17-year-old daughter Hallel Abramovitz; Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of the Women of the Wall, who has been arrested several times in recent months, and two U.S. rabbis, Debra Cantor of B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom in Bloomfield, Conn., and Robin Fryer Bodzin of the Israel Center of Conservative Judaism in Queens, N.Y.
The women had gathered at the back of the women’s section, as they have at the beginning of every new Jewish month since 1988, for Rosh Chodesh services for the new Jewish month of Adar. It was the largest number of participants for the monthly event since its inception, organizers told Israeli media.
The women were joined on the other side of the mechitzah, the barrier that separates the sexes at the Wall, by a number of male supporters, including six former Israel Defence Forces paratroopers who had been among those that liberated the Western Wall during the Six Day War in 1967. One of the paratroopers was Yitzhak Yifat of Jerusalem, who is famous as one of the three paratroopers in the iconic photograph of three soldiers standing at the Western Wall shortly after its liberation. Yifat is the middle paratrooper in the photo by David Rubinger.
The arrests reportedly were made at the end of the service, after most of the participants and media had left the Western Wall Plaza. Police had stood on the sidelines as the women prayed and then danced in a circle holding their prayer shawls, according to Ha’aretz.
The women’s prayer group moved its Torah reading from the Wall to outside the Old City of Jerusalem police department, where the arrested women were taken.
In 2003, Israel’s Supreme Court upheld a government ban on women wearing tfillin or tallit prayer shawls, or reading from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall.
Women participating in the Rosh Chodesh service have been arrested nearly every month since June for wearing prayer shawls or for “disturbing public order.”