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.'

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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.

Anat Hoffman, leader of Women of the Wall, being arrested in 2010 while praying at the Western Wall. Credit: Michal Fattal
Natan Sharansky promises the Women of the Wall will be safe from arrest even if they pray with a Torah on the coming Rosh Hodesh.Credit: Michal Fattal