Israeli police on Monday took 10 women for questioning after they wrapped themselves in men’s prayer shawls and prayed at the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, in the Old City of Jerusalem.
“Around a hundred women gathered at the Kotel (Western Wall) this morning, they wrapped themselves in the fringed prayer shawls (which are reserved for men) and began praying which has been banned by the Supreme Court,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.
“At the end of the prayer, 10 of them were taken for questioning while the rest just dispersed,” she said.
The women were later released without charge but were told they could not return to the Wall for another two weeks, she said, without naming any of those detained.
The offence is punishable by six months in prison and a fine of $3,000.
The women are part of a group called Women of the Wall (WoW) whose mission is to win the social and legal right for women to wear prayer shawls, pray and read out loud from the Torah collectively at the wall — practices which have traditionally been reserved for men.
Among those briefly detained was Rabbi Susan Silverman, sister of US comedian Sarah Silverman, and her daughter.
“SO proud of my amazing sister @rabbisusan & niece,” the comedian wrote on her official Twitter feed after the incident in a post tagged WomenoftheWall.
The Western Wall is one of the holiest sites in Judaism, and is revered by Jews as one of the last remaining remnants of the Second Temple complex.
In 2003, Israel’s supreme court ruled that WoW could not hold vocal prayers at the wall as this presented a threat to law and order.
Women are also banned from wearing a man’s prayer shawl and putting on tefillin (leather boxes containing tiny scrolls of scripture), Samri said.
They are also forbidden to read aloud from a Torah scroll in public.
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