Israeli woman protests modesty bill by stripping down to swimsuit at Western Wall

Benjamin Netanyahu has shelved Shas' plans to jail people who wear ‘immodest clothing’ at the Kotel


A woman attended the Western Wall in a swimsuit on Sunday morning to protest against a bill that proposes criminalising “immodest dress” at the holiest active prayer site in Judaism.

Police detained the 35-year-old woman, who had the Israeli Prime Minister's nickname "Bibi" written on her leg, and transported her to a local station for interrogation. 

Under existing laws, the woman could be subject to charges of “insult to religion,” which may incur a custodial sentence of up to three years. 

Authorities have not released the identity of the arrested woman, who walked into the women’s section of the Western Wall’s Orthodox prayer area, where she stripped into a bikini.

Police arrested her within minutes. Police said the woman, who is a Jerusalem resident, was detained “on the suspicion that she stripped off her clothes in a holy place deliberately.”

Current Israeli law prohibits “insult to religion”, defining the offence as anything that “destroys, damages or defames a place of worship or any object considered holy to a group of people, with the intention of degrading religion or with the knowledge that their action would be seen as insulting religion."

The Western Wall’s Chief Rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovitch, condemned the woman’s protest, saying: “We are horrified by the despicable act of provocation this morning at the Western Wall Plaza, which desecrated the holiness of the site and deeply offended the public and worshipers,”

He added: “The Western Wall is a sacred site for every Jew and Jewess. It is not a place for dispute or provocation of any kind,” he went on.

The woman’s protest comes after the Ultra-Orthodox Shas party brought forward plans to jail people who participate in mixed-gender prayer or wear immodest clothing at the Western Wall.

However, in a Twitter video released on Thursday following talks with coalition leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the radical plans “won’t come up right now,” ahead of Sunday’s planned ministerial meeting on legislation.

The plans proposed punishing offenders with six months in prison or an almost 3000 USD fine.

Conflicts over Jewish prayer at the site have raged since Israel regained control of Jerusalem in 1968.

Since 2004 Reform and Conservative groups and the cross-denominational Women of the Wall group have been permitted to conduct services in a separate non-orthodox worship area that hardliners such as Shas have criticised.

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