Women of the Wall Arrested for Trying to Sneak Torah Into Holy Site

Jewish feminist activist detained and handcuffed after religious scroll found in her bag as struggle for gender equality continues in Western Wall.

Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
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Members of Women of the Wall reading from a full-size Torah scroll at the Western Wall, April 20, 2015.
Members of Women of the Wall reading from a full-size Torah scroll at the Western Wall, April 20, 2015.Credit: courtesy of Women of the Wall
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

A religious feminist activist was detained and handcuffed Friday morning at the Western Wall for trying to smuggle a Torah scroll into the women’s section.

Rachel Cohen-Yeshurun, who was participating in the monthly prayer service held by Women of the Wall, a multidenominational feminist prayer group, was released following questioning by police. Cohen-Yeshurun is a board member of Women of the Wall.

She was detained in the women's section of the Western Wall where the Torah scroll was discovered in her bag.

For the first time in many years, Women of the Wall held a Torah reading with a full-size scroll at the Western Wall two months ago. The scroll has handed over to them through an opening in the partition that separates the men and women’s sections by a group of male supporters.

Since then, under instructions from the Western Wall Heritage Foundation – the Orthodox-run organization responsible for prayer regulations at the Western Wall – a special locked barricade has been set up between the two sections.

Ultra-Orthodox demonstrator carrying sign that reads: "We protest with pain the clownery at this holy place."Credit: Shira Pruce, Women of the Wall

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation does not allow worshippers to bring their own Torah scrolls to the Jewish holy site. It keeps a supply of several dozen scrolls in the men’s section but none in the women’s section. It has consistently rejected requests by Women of the Wall to borrow one of the scrolls from the men’s section.

According to a spokeswoman for Women of the Wall, about 200 women participated in this morning’s prayer session. They were joined toward the end by a group of roughly 100 members of Noam, the Conservative youth movement.

The women were heckled throughout the service by ultra-Orthodox demonstrators, both men and women.

Last month, another feminist prayer group succeeded in bringing a Torah scroll into the women’s section, in defiance of existing regulations at the Jewish holy site.

That group, known as Original Women of the Wall, split off from Women of the Wall more than a year ago, to protest its decision to negotiate with the Israeli government a compromise that would have forced them to move their monthly prayer service from the women’s section to a new egalitarian section.

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