Australia’s Progressives protest arrests of women at the Kottel
The Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) and the Australian Reform Zionist Association (ARZA) echo the outrage expressed by their global organisations (WUPJ and ARZENU) at the latest arrests of four women seeking to pray at the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Four women were detained by Israel Police on Friday morning, after donning Tallitot, or prayer shawls, at the Western Wall. The women arrived with Women of the Wall, a group of Orthodox, conservative and Progressive Jewish women who fight for the right to wear Tallitot, pray, and read from the Torah out loud at the Western Wall.
The detention took place on Friday morning, the seventh day of Chanukah “It is difficult to believe that as Jews around the world celebrate the victory of spirit over forced assimilation, other Jews are forcibly prevented from praying in the capital of the Jewish State,” said ARZA President, Barbara Ford. “The Supreme Court has called on the State to find a resolution and, until that happens, Israel is failing miserably in fulfilling the promise of its Declaration of Independence to provide a haven for all Jews and to provide freedom of religious practice.”
The first woman detained on Friday was Women of the Wall board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, who refused to remove her prayer shawl as she entered the Western Wall Plaza. According to other members, she was detained and interrogated even before she approached the holy site, accused of disturbing the public order and of obstructing a police procedure.
The other three women – Rabbi Elyse Frishman from America and two 18-year-old British women participating in a World Union sponsored Netzer gap-year program in Israel – were held and interrogated. According to a statement by Women of the Wall, all four refused to sign an admission of disturbing the public peace and were released after three hours.
Women of the Wall representatives said they were told by police that a new decree had been issued that morning, forbidding women to enter the plaza with Jewish holy articles – Tallitot, or prayer shawls, and tefillen, or phylacteries.
“It is time that Jews everywhere realise that this is not a matter of concern just for Progressive Jews, it is an attempt by a small group of ultra-religious people to dominate the public sphere of religious worship’” said UPJ Executive Director, Steve Denenberg “Every Jew who believes that Israel is the spiritual home for all Jews must condemn these actions. We are heartened that at the recent AGMs of both the Zionist Federation of Australia and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry resolutions were passed condemning these actions and supporting the call from the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for the State of Israel to resolve the matter in a way that allows all Jews to pray in peace at the Kottel.”