Four women detained at Western Wall for entering with prayer shawls

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Four women were detained at the Western Wall by Israeli police for trying to enter the site with prayer shawls.

The women were planning to participate in a special service Friday for the beginning of the new Hebrew month of Tevet.

Unlike in previous months, the women were asked to hand over their prayer shawls, or tallitot, before entering the Western Wall Plaza, part of a new rule that prohibits women from entering the plaza with ritual objects, the Forward reported.

In 2003, Israel’s Supreme Court upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin or tallit prayer shawls, or reading from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall. Women of the Wall has held a special prayer service at the holy site almost each month for the last 20 years on Rosh Chodesh, or the beginning of a new Hebrew month, at the back of the women’s section.

Women participating in the Rosh Chodesh service have been arrested nearly every month since June for wearing prayer shawls or for “disturbing public order.”

On Friday, Rabbi Elyse Frishman of Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, N.J., who had managed to enter the Western Wall Plaza with her tallit worn under her jacket, was forcibly removed from the women’s section and taken to the general plaza. She continued to pray there until she was detained by police, who asked her to sign a written complaint in Hebrew, which she said she did not understand and refused to sign, according to the Forward. 

More than 80 women reportedly participated in Friday’s women’s service.

The others detained and questioned were Women of the Wall board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun and two 18-year-olds from Britain participating in an RSY-Netzer gap-year program, Haaretz reported. They all refused to sign the complaints against them and were released after several hours, according to reports.

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