Israeli police arrested 10 women, including the sister and niece of comedienne Sarah Silverman, for wearing prayer shawls while praying at Jerusalem's sacred "Wailing Wall."
The Jerusalem Post reports that the women were part of a monthly service organized by a liberal group, Women of the Wall, that meets at the holy site. The gathering was given added support this month by the presence of veterans who fought at the Western Wall during the 1967 Six-Day War.
According to The Independent, Silverman's sister Susan, a rabbi, as well as her 17-year-old niece Hallel were arrested for wearing a blue-and-white shawl known as a "tallitot," a garment that is worn by Orthodox Jewish men. Women of the Wall's founder Anat Hoffman was also arrested over the demonstration.
"I was proud to take a stand for something I believe in. There is inequality at the Western Wall,” Hallel Silverman told the New York Daily News.
The comedienne took to Twitter soon after the news broke to applaud the actions of her relatives.
— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) February 11, 2013
According to a press release sent to The Huffington Post by a Women of the Wall spokesperson, close to 200 women and around 50 men were present at the prayer service. Despite a heavy police presence, the service was peaceful except for "a few choice words yelled by ultra-Orthodox women passing by."
The Daily News reports that, in the past, women have been attacked at the site by "ultra-Orthodox thugs who threw chairs at them across the barrier."
In 2003, the Israeli Supreme Court banned the Women of the Wall from reciting vocal prayers at the wall, reports The Telegraph. Despite the ruling, Women of the Wall continue to meet and and have been arrested in the past.
In October, Hoffman was arrested, strip-searched and jailed for praying at the site, an experience "of humiliation and pain" that she wrote about for HuffPost.
"I was handcuffed, strip searched, laid on the bare floor. I was not allowed to call my lawyer. I was dragged on the floor with my hands cuffed and worse of all, locked in a tiny cell," Hoffman wrote. "I thought it was a cruel and unusual punishment, but as I found out it was cruel but not unusual. This is how arrests are done in my town, in Jerusalem."
For decades Hoffman has called for a relaxation of regulations regarding who can pray, where they pray, and how they pray at the iconic Wall. "Ultra-Orthodox rabbis may be offended by the Women of the Wall practices," she also wrote in her HuffPost blog post. "That is their legitimate right but it becomes dangerous and frightening when the secular Knesset, the secular courts and the secular police bow down to the ultra-Orthodox fears and demands, while imposing them in the public sphere."
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