Nofrat Frenkel, the 25-year-old Israeli woman arrested last month for wearing a tallit at the Western Wall, writes about her experience in the Forward. Frankel’s arrest was apparently predicated on a high court ruling that, given the penchant for violence by ultra-Orthodox Jews offended by female ritual participation at the wall, police could act to avoid an "offense to public sensitivity."
In my interrogation, I was asked why I was praying with a tallit when I knew that this was against the Law of the Holy Places. I am an Israel Defense Forces officer, a law-abiding citizen, a volunteer for the Civil Guard — I have never incurred even a parking fine — and the idea of having broken the law was most trying.
Nevertheless, I cannot allow my basic right to freedom of religious worship to be trampled because of a court ruling given years ago.It is most doubtful that this ruling would be accepted today. In the wake of the Conservative and Reform movements, during the past 10 years, people in the Orthodox world have come to understand that the woman’s place is no longer restricted to the kitchen. Feminist Orthodox women are demanding to take an active part in Jewish life. Egalitarian Orthodox synagogues, in which women don tallitot and lead services, are popping up like mushrooms after rain.The “public sensitivity” has changed.
The Kotel belongs to all the people of Israel. The Kotel is not a Haredi synagogue, and the Women of the Wall will not allow it to become such.
I was banned from visiting the Kotel for two weeks, and a criminal file has been opened against me. I hope that the file will be closed, especially so that my medical studies will not be jeopardized. Perhaps, with God’s help, this regretful event will awaken wide public objection, enough for the high court to re-evaluate its decision and annul it.
Jerusalem is the city of holiness and justice for all humankind. From Zion, the voice calling for equality should be heard, for boundless love, for better understanding between people. Jerusalem has already been destroyed, due to unfounded hatred. Let us hope it will not happen again.