Woman Arrested for Wearing Tallit at Western Wall
A woman was arrested today by Jerusalem police at the Western Wall, the Kotel, which is for many the most sacred site in all of Israel. What was her crime? Publicly wearing a tallit, a prayer shawl traditionally worn by men.
Nofrat Frankel, the woman arrested, was participating in the Rosh Chodesh (first of the month) prayer service organized by the Women of the Wall.
Since 1988, this group has convened monthly on the women’s side of the Kotel to read from a Torah scroll, pray, and sing out loud. Traditional Judaism does not accept these practices, and as Dr. Phyllis Chesler, one of the group’s founders writes, “Women have always prayed at the Kotel, often silently, and alone. What made this service radically different, certainly transcendent, was that we not only prayed aloud but we also chanted from the Torah.”
Anat Hoffman, director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC – our social justice affiliate in Israel) and chairwoman of Women of the Wall, decried the arrest as “unprecedented in Israel’s history.” The police claimed that they arrested the Frankel in response to a High Court ruling concerning proper dress code for visitors.
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz went further, comparing Frankel to Korach, who leads a mutinous revolt against Moses in the Torah. He claimed, “Even if it is allowed according to Jewish law, the Kotel should remain out of disputes.”
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, leader of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) said in response, “Millions of women in the Jewish world enjoy the privilege of donning a prayer shawl and taking an equal part in public prayer. It is in the Jewish State and the holiest site for the Jewish people of all places that police forces are sent to arrest a woman who seeks to pray.” You can continue reading the full IMPJ statement here. Both the IMPJ and IRAC work for civic equality women and minorities in Israel.
The video below has more information about the story of the Women of the Wall.