Ten women participating in a women’s prayer service at the Western Wall were arrested Feb. 11 for wearing prayer shawls.
Among their male supporters on the other side of the mechitzah, the barrier that separates the sexes at the Wall, were six former Israeli paratroopers who had helped liberate the Wall in the Six-Day War.
Among those arrested as they prayed with hundreds of worshipers and supporters were Israeli American Rabbi Susan Silverman, sister of comedian Sarah Silverman, and her 17-year-old daughter, Hallel Abramowitz; Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of the Women of the Wall, who has been arrested several times in recent months; and two U.S. rabbis, Debra Cantor of B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom in Bloomfield, Conn., and Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin of the Israel Center of Conservative Judaism in New York City.
The women had gathered at the back of the women’s section, as they have at the beginning of every new Jewish month since 1988, for Rosh Hodesh services for the month of Adar. It was the largest number of participants for the event since its inception, organizers told Israeli media.
Police stood on the sidelines as the women prayed and danced in a circle holding their prayer shawls, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz. The women were arrested after the paratroopers and most of the media had left.
One of the paratroopers who showed up to support the women was Dr. Yitzhak Yifat of Jerusalem, who was one of three soldiers in an iconic photograph taken by David Rubinger at the Western Wall shortly after its liberation (he was the paratrooper in the middle).
Following the arrest, Sarah Silverman tweeted: “SO proud of my amazing sister @rabbisusan & niece @purplelettuce95 for their ballsout civil disobedience. Ur the tits! #womenofthewall.” Silverman’s niece responded: “@SarahKSilverman hey auntie, want a copy of my mugshot?”
In 2003, Israel’s Supreme Court upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin or tallits or reading from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall.
Women participating in the Rosh Hodesh service have been arrested nearly every month since June for wearing prayer shawls or for “disturbing public order.”