Two UK teens arrested in Kotel protest

By Sandy Rashty, December 20, 2012

Two young British women were detained in a Jerusalem police station after taking part in a Women of the Wall religious rights protest last Friday.

The 18-year-olds, currently on RSY-Netzer’s Israel gap-year programme, were detained for four-and-a-half hours after morning prayers at the Western Wall.

Rhiannon Humphreys from Finchley Reform Synagogue and Emily Wolfson from Glasgow Reform Synagogue took part in the 100-person protest to campaign for religious equality.

Both girls, standing on the women’s side of the Wall, wore tallitot.

The girls were partly inspired by RSY-Netzer seminars, but the protest was not orchestrated by the movement.

Ms Humphreys said she took part because “religious equality is something that I believe strongly in. I barely had time to adjust my tallit before I was taken away, less than a second.

“As a Reform Jewish woman, I strongly believe in my right to pray however I like. The Kotel has never felt like a place where I feel comfortable praying, and I want this to change for me and for all the others who can’t express their religious practices at the wall without fear of judgment or being attacked.”

The two teenagers, who both plan to partake in future Women of the Wall initiatives, were detained for disturbing the peace but were later released without charge.

Ms Humphreys, who will study politics at Leeds University, added: “I felt that we were treated fairly. They allowed us to finish our Rosh Chodesh service in the station and weren’t rude to us.

"One of the guards was baffled that two 18-year-olds from Britain had chosen not only to spend their gap year in Israel, but to spend time in a police station in Jerusalem. I explained that I was taking a stand for something I believe in strongly.”

Twenty men and women from RSY-Netzer took part in the protest and sang songs outside the station until the girls were released. Ms Wolfson added: “From this we hope for acknowledgment and inclusion of Progressive Judaism.”

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, the movement rabbi for Reform Judaism, said: “I am very proud of the girls and boys who went to the Kotel to pray. We see this as a positive outcome of their education. This was their own initiative and belongs to them.”

Last updated: 3:43pm, April 9 2013