Women Detained in Israel for Prayer Shawls

Israeli police arrested 10 women at one of the holiest sites for Judaism, for the prayer shawls they were wearing, which Orthodox traditions says are for just men, authorities have confirmed. Among the women detained Monday in the Old City of Jerusalem at the Western Wall, was Susan Silverman the sister of Sarah Silverman a famous comedian in the U.S. Susan is also a reform rabbi.

Two other people who were also U.S. citizens and members of Israel’s Women of the Wall, which is a group of women who campaign for gender equality, were also being held. The group has routinely met at the Western Wall for monthly sessions of prayer. The Wall is revered by Jews as the Biblical Temple’s perimeter wall in Jerusalem.

Prior to Monday, some members of the group have occasionally been detained by law enforcement officers for wearing the prayer shawls at the revered site and then have been released without being charged.

Strict Orthodox law is used to administer the Western Wall. That bars women from using the religious garb and reading publically from the scriptures.

An Israeli law enforcement spokesperson said the group of women acted against the High Court regulations citing a decision made a decade ago that upheld rules for Orthodox at the Western Wall to avoid any tension amongst worshippers.

This incident highlights the vast divisions between Judaism’s liberal branches and the Orthodox groups that are politically powerful and traditionally limit women’s role in prayer.

Susan Silverman emigrated from Boston to Israel and said police took her and the group she was with to a nearby station after they said they would not take off their prayer shawls.

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