New Decree at the Western Wall Places Further Limits on Women’s Freedom

18-yr old British gap year student, a participant in Rsy Netzer (The Movement for Reform Judaism, UK) detained at the Kotel this morning.

Four women were detained by Israeli police at the Western Wall this morning, one of whom was removed before entering the holy site. According to police, a new decree was issued at 6:00 this morning forbidding women to enter the plaza with Jewish religious articles including, tallit and tefilin. When a group of women arrived to pray at the monthly Women of the Wall group prayer, all of the women were stripped of the articles at the security point, while men entered freely through security with these items in hand.

According to the organization, this new decree is a clear escalation of the restrictions on women’s rights at the Western Wall and has no legal basis, especially in a public space like the Plaza. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, led by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz and an all-male, all ultra-Orthodox directing board, has been known to issue similar impulsive decrees in the past and to hold the police responsible for enforcing such arbitrary decrees in attempt to limit women from praying freely at the holy site.

The first woman detained, Women of the Wall board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, refused to remove her tallit as she entered the Western Wall Plaza, far from the holy site itself. She was removed and interrogated, under the accusation of disturbing the public order and obstructing a police procedure. The other three women, including 2 young women from the UK gap year program Shnat-Netzer and Rabbi Elyse Frishman were held and interrogated. Rabbi Frishman is the senior rabbi of the 165 year old Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, NJ, the oldest synagogue in New Jersey. She is the editor of the Reform Movment’s siddur, Mishkan Tefila, used in over 700 North American congregations, and is the wife of URJ Senior Vice President Rabbi Dan Freelander.

All four women refused to sign an admission of disturbing the public peace and were released after roughly three hours.