Three members of religious rights group Women of the Wall have been arrested for praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem wearing a tallit.
Woman of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman had been holding prayers for the “Rosh Hodesh Heshvan” at the Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City when she was arrested for “disturbing public order” and placed in prison overnight. Her crime had been to sing the Shema, and wear a prayer shawl – practices forbidden to women by the Orthodox rabbinate, which controls all services at the site.
Director Lesley Sachs and board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun were arrested on Wednesday morning for the same offence.
The arrests highlight the organisation’s mission: “To achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.” Currently under Israeli law, it is illegal to hold a religious ceremony in the women’s section of the Wall.
The group have been holding - or attempting to hold - services at the Western Wall for 25 years and over that time have frequently been confronted, attacked and arrested.
Liberal Judaism and the Movement for Reform Judaism said they were “dismayed” at news of the arrest. Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism said: "When women are intimidated and treated as criminals for asserting their basic human and Jewish right to pray as Jews, it's wrong. These women pray at the Kotel because it is a place of holiness and remembrance. The policy of giving one group complete control of the Kotel must be changed."