Police detained a woman from the Women of the Wall (WOW) movement Wednesday after she donned a prayer shawl and held a Torah scroll at the Western Wall compound in violation of a court ruling. The woman's act caused a commotion during Rosh Chodesh prayers at the holy site.
It should be noted that the High Court of Justice previously ruled that Women of the Wall must adhere to the site's customs.
Every Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the month) WOW members hold a festive prayer, common to both men and women, in the Western Wall square and later move to the adjacent Robinson Arch in accordance with a compromise reached by the High Court of Justice.
Wednesday morning saw 40 women participating in the event, including one woman who carried a Torah scroll brought from home, instead of keeping it in her bag. Inspectors of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation claimed that the act was a violation of the law and called a police officer who proceeded to arrest the woman and escort her to the police station for questioning.
Consequently, the remaining praying women arrived at the station in order to protest the arrest and later carried on with their prayer outside the station building.
WOW chairwoman Anat Hoffman told Ynet, "This is the first time in 21 years that one of us has been arrested. The woman is a young med student who left Beersheba at 4:30 am in order to pray with us and now cannot stop crying."
Hoffman further stated, "It is unthinkable that a citizen of the State of Israel is arrested for donning a prayer shawl and holding a scroll. There were hundreds of people on the other side of the screen who did the same and nothing happened to them."
Hoffman claimed that the women praying only sought to take the Torah scroll to the Robinson Arch. Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz, on the other hand, claimed that the women had already prepared to read the scroll at the Western Wall site itself, thus breaking the law.
The rabbi stated, "It is an act of provocation that seeks to turn the Western Wall into disputed territory and in violation of a High Court of Justice ruling. A prayer that causes contention and desecration of the sanctity of the Western Wall has no value. It is an act of protest."
Rabinovitz further noted that he regrets that various bodies are attempting to compromise the Western Wall, out of "political interests."
"The Western Wall was always excluded from that realm. Let’s leave it be – that it remains so in the future as well."
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, leader of the Progressive Judaism movement 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 according to her conscience and conviction. It is a great shame to the Israel Police and the State."
The Masorti Movement also issued a statement in response, which condemned "the scandalous arrest of one of its members." Executive Director of the Masorti Movement Yizhar Hess, said: "The Western Wall must be freed from the obstructionist orthodox establishment. It is inconceivable that a Western democratic nation such as Israel does not allow religious ritual freedom for its Jewish citizens. The Western Wall must be liberated."
Kobi Nahshoni contributed to this report