Jewish Agency Chairman: No Women of the Wall Arrests Next Month

Natan Sharansky, speaking at JFNA GA, calls Supreme Court sanctioning arrest for wearing tallitot 'strange.'

No arrests will be made at the next Women of the Wall Rosh Hodesh prayer service at the Western Wall, even if the women will read from a Torah scroll during their controversial monthly gathering, stated Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharanskyon Monday.

“I can promise you there will be no arrests,” Sharansky said at a panel on the Women of the Wall at the General Assembly conference at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem. This year's conference theme is “The Global Jewish Shuk: A Marketplace of Dialogue and Debate.”

Sharansky's statement followed a question from Hallel Silverman, a teenage Women of the Wall activist, who was arrested at the group’s February prayer service along with her mother, Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman because they were wearing tallitot - traditional prayer shawls, which Orthodox Judaism reserves for men.

Susan Silverman is the sister of Jewish American comedienne Sarah Silverman, a fact that helped catapult the issue to international prominence.

Sharansky, who has been spearheading efforts to reach a compromise between the Women of the Wall and the Israeli government, which has entrusted the Western Wall to ultra-Orthodox rabbis, said it was a “strange idea” in the first place for a Supreme Court to have ruled in 2003 that women could be arrested for wearing tallitot.

The group has taken up the custom of reading from a printed Bible – and not a Torah scroll, which is hand-scribed and treated with greater reverence than its book version – to avoid challenging a 2010 administrative order barring women from bringing a Torah scroll into the women’s section of the wall.

Michal Fattal
Michal Fattal