Youth arrested for asking if shooting at Women of the Wall is kosher

Yeshiva student made the inquiry on a website; Women of the Wall intend to read from Torah at next service Sunday

Members of Women of the Wall gather at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Friday, May 10. (photo credit: Michal Shmulovich/Times of Israel staff)
Members of Women of the Wall gather at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Friday, May 10. (photo credit: Michal Shmulovich/Times of Israel staff)

A youth from the West Bank was arrested after he inquired on a website whether shooting members of the Women of the Wall while they wear the tallit, or prayer shawl, is permissible according to Jewish law.

Reshet Bet reports that the 17-year-old, who studies at a yeshiva in Jerusalem, was told that violence is absolutely forbidden. The student claims that he never intended to actually harm any members of the organization.

The Women of the Wall, who gather monthly to celebrate Rosh Hodesh (the new moon) in the women’s section of the Western Wall plaza, pray with tefillin (phylacteries), tallit and Torah scrolls, religious items traditionally used only by men. The group says its actions are not in contravention of the halacha (Jewish law).

The organization said it will read from a Torah scroll at its upcoming service Sunday at the Western Wall.

Meanwhile, several leading ultra-Orthodox rabbis called on their followers to gather Sunday for a mass prayer opposite the group’s service, which is due to include an admonition against violence.

On Wednesday, Women of the Wall director Lesley Sachs told JTA that her group had acquiesced to a request from Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett to refrain from reading from a Torah scroll in May at its monthly women’s Rosh Chodesh service at the wall.

“We could have done it last month, but Bennett asked us to make certain compromises and we agreed for one month to show our goodwill,” Sachs said. “There was no question we would bring it this month. Without it, it’s not a full service.”

Bennett met with Women of the Wall representatives on Wednesday in what Sachs called a “very productive meeting,” but she added there was “nothing new.”

Women of the Wall members have been arrested for wearing prayer shawls over a law forbidding the practice that falls outside the wall’s “local custom.”

In April, however, a judge determined that the group’s activities — including reading from a Torah scroll — did not contravene the law.

The absence of a Torah scroll last month did little to prevent unrest during the Women of the Wall’s service, as thousands of haredi young women packed the Western Wall Plaza during the service, and several dozen haredi men protested, with some throwing coffee, water and a chair in protest.

The following clip shows a special Times of Israel video report on last month’s services:

The call for thousands of men to mass for this month’s service, according to haredi news site Kikar Hashabbat, included the admonition against violence.

“It will be a show of sanctification of God’s name,” said Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yossi Deutsch, who is haredi. “Many will come, according to the instruction of great rabbis, to sanctify the name of heaven and prove that we will not surrender in the battle over the holiness of the Western Wall.”

Sachs said she does not think reading from a Torah scroll should incite haredi protest.

“We’re not there to provoke,” she said. “We just want to do the new month’s service, which does include the Torah scroll.”

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