Women of the Wall member arrested at Western Wall with Torah
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Women of the Wall member arrested at Western Wall with Torah

Group says board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun was ‘handcuffed, interrogated and released’, but not charged

Women of the Wall board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun holding her arrest warrant following her detention in Jerusalem on July 17, 2015.  (photo credit: Facebook/Women of the Wall)
Women of the Wall board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun holding her arrest warrant following her detention in Jerusalem on July 17, 2015. (photo credit: Facebook/Women of the Wall)

A member of a group campaigning for equal prayer rights for women at the Western Wall was arrested Friday morning, and her Torah scroll confiscated.

Women of the Wall board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun “was detained with a Torah, handcuffed, interrogated and released,” the group said on its Facebook page Friday.

Women of the Wall runs gender egalitarian services at the holy site in defiance of the state-imposed regulations.

Yeshurun and other Women of the Wall members came to the site for their monthly Rosh Hodesh (new Hebrew month) service with a scroll she placed in her bag. In Orthodox Judaism, only men traditionally carry Torah scrolls.

Upon going through security in the early hours of the morning, Yeshurun was confronted by officials of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which operates the site, to open her bag. She refused.

Rules established by Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi of the Western Wall, permit women to wear prayer shawls, but bringing a Torah to the wall is strictly forbidden.

Women dance with a Torah scroll as they attend a monthly prayer service at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, on April 20, 2015 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Women dance with a Torah scroll as they attend a monthly prayer service at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, on April 20, 2015 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Mickey Rosenfeld, the foreign press spokesperson for the Israel Police, said Yeshurun’s detention was a direct consequence of breaking this rule.

Yeshurun was not charged with any crime or other violation. After her release, she posed for a picture with her arrest warrant. It was later posted on Facebook by the Women of the Wall.

In April 2013, an Israeli court ruling formally acknowledged women’s right to pray according to their beliefs at the Western Wall, claiming that this does not violate “local custom,” which hitherto had been cited as the foundation of banning some prayer rites women wished to engage in as a group. However, the rabbinic authority at the site nevertheless dictates that Torah scrolls must not enter the women’s section, citing concerns of possible theft.

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