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    Israeli police detain women at Western Wall

    An Israeli man in his prayer shawl watched a large group of women gather Monday at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
    Jim Hollander/EPA
    An Israeli man in his prayer shawl watched a large group of women gather Monday at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

    JERUSALEM — Ten women, including two US rabbis, were detained by the Israeli police Monday for praying at the Western Wall wearing prayer shawls that are traditionally used by men. It was the latest escalation of a conflict over one of Judaism’s holiest sites.

    Those detained were part of the group Women of the Wall, which has gathered each month for the past 24 years to protest the ultra-Orthodox insistence that only men may pray at the wall wearing traditional garb, a rule that has been backed by the Supreme Court.

    Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the police, said the women were not charged with criminal offenses but were barred from returning to the wall for 15 days. He said the women were detained ‘‘as a result of them wearing the garments that they’re not allowed to wear specifically at that site.’’ He noted that despite the court ruling, ‘‘they decided to go down to that specific area.’’


    The dispute over prayer at the site, a remnant of the retaining wall that surrounded the ancient Temple Mount, has increased tensions in recent months between Jewish leaders in the United States and the Israeli government.

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    On Monday, the group of about 200 people who came to the wall for the monthly prayer included some of the paratroopers who recaptured the Western Wall from Jordanian control in 1967, and who have their own conflict with the rabbi controlling the site over whether to place a plaque there commemorating that event.

    The women were allowed to conduct their service Monday wearing prayer shawls. But on their way out of the area, after many of the activists had left, 10 women were detained, including Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin of the Israel Center of Conservative Judaism in New York and Rabbi Debra Cantor of Congregation B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom in Bloomfield, Conn.

    Among the others detained was the sister of American comedian and New Hampshire native Sarah Silverman, as they tried to pray at a Jerusalem holy site, the head of a liberal Jewish women’s group said. Susan Silverman, a Jerusalem rabbi from the liberal Reform stream of Judaism, was detained along with her teenage daughter.

    Sarah Silverman wrote on her Facebook page that she was ‘‘So proud’’ of her sister and niece for their ‘‘civil disobedience.’’


    Women of the Wall has filed a lawsuit challenging the ultra-Orthodox dominance of the board that governs the holy site. In December, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Natan Sharansky, the head of the Jewish Agency, to try to resolve the conflict.

    New York Times