10 women arrested at Western Wall for praying with prayer shawls


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Ten women participating in a women’s prayer service at the Western Wall were arrested for wearing prayer shawls.

Among those arrested Monday morning as they prayed with hundreds of worshipers and supporters were Israeli-American Rabbi Susan Silverman, sister of the comedian Sarah Silverman, and her 17-year-old daughter, Hallel Abramowitz; 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 New York City.

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 Defense Forces paratroopers who had been among those that liberated the Western Wall during the Six-Day War in 1967.

One of the paratroopers was Dr. Yitzhak Yifat of Jerusalem, who was part of 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 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 danced in a circle holding their prayer shawls, according to Haaretz. 

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. 

Following the arrest, Sarah Silverman tweeted: “SO proud of my amazing sister @rabbisusan & niece@purplelettuce95 for their ballsout civil disobedience. Ur the tits!#womenofthewall”  Silverman’s niece responded:“@SarahKSilverman hey auntie, want a copy of my mugshot?” 

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


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