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.
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.