Women of Wall Head Held for Kotel March

The chairwoman of the group Women of the Wall was held for questioning for several hours yesterday after holding a prayer session at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City.

Anat Hoffman

Police said Anat Hoffman and members of her group attempted to hold a procession in the Western Wall Plaza carrying a Torah scroll, a move they said contravenes a 2003 High Court ruling prohibitting women from reading from the Torah in the plaza's public area in the interest of public safety and order.

While Jerusalem police questioned Hoffman for four hours, dozens of members of her organization rallied outside the station to protest her arrest. Hoffman was ultimately released after paying NIS 5,000 of her own money in bail and agreeing to stay away from the Western Wall Plaza for 30 days.

Rabbi Steven Wernick, executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said, "My understanding of the law is that it doesn't mention anything about carrying a sefer Torah [Torah scroll]. It mentions reading Torah in public [on the women's side] and it mentions wearing a tallit, but not carrying a sefer Torah.

"I am just in shock that on Rosh Hodesh Av, of all days, nine days before Tisha B'Av, that any Jew would be arrested for carrying a sefer Torah anywhere in the Jewish state," he said. "I think that at the time that our enemies are working to delegitimize the Jewish state, the message of the Israeli establishment is the delegitimization of the liberal streams of Judaism."