Police Arrest Woman for Wearing Prayer Shawl at Western Wall

Police: Woman arrested for violating High Court ruling obligating visitors to abide by dress code.

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Police on Wednesday arrested a woman who was praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, due to the fact that she was wrapped in a prayer shawl (tallit).

The woman was visiting the site with the religious women's group "Women of the Wall" to take part in the monthly Rosh Hodesh prayer.

Police were called to the area after the group asked to read aloud from a Torah scroll.

Police said they arrested the women in the wake of a High Court ruling, which states that the public visiting the Western Wall is obligated to dress in accordance with the site's dress code.

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz said the act was a provocation meant to turn the wall into a fighting ground. "We must distance politics and disagreement from this sacred place," Rabinowitz said.

Chairman of the women's group, Anat Hoffman, said that this is the first time in the history of Israel that a woman has been arrested because she wrapped herself in a tallit and read from the Torah.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, associate director of Israel's reform movement, said that all over the world women are entitled to wear the tallit, and only in the land of the Jews are they excluded from the social custom and even arrested for praying.

"Israeli police should be ashamed of themselves," Kariv said.

Last week Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the Shas party's spiritual leader, said during his weekly sermon that the women in the feminist movement are "stupid" and act the way they do out of a selfish desire for equality, not "for heavens' sake."

Rabbi Ovadia also said about the groups' custom to pray at the Western Wall that "there are stupid women who come to the Western Wall, put on a tallit (prayer shawl), and pray," and added that they should be condemned.

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