Comedienne Sarah Silverman's niece Hallel Abramowitz Silverman, a 17-year-old girl who was detained earlier this
month at the Western Wall after participating in a Women of the Wall prayer
service, was granted dispensation by the investigations officer of the Kishle
police station in the Old City of Jerusalem to visit the site during
Silverman, along with her mother, Reform Rabbi Susan Abramowitz
Silverman, and eight other women, were detained in the same February 11 incident
and released on condition that they refrain from visiting the Western Wall for
They were required to sign a document committing to the
In a letter that was presented Tuesday to the investigations
officer, Hallel Silverman wrote that she regretted signing the letter and had
only done so because she had been “flustered and disoriented” by the experience
of being detained by the police, noting also that her mother tongue is
“I didn’t realize that it would mean missing [the] megila
[Scroll of Esther] reading,” she wrote. “I certainly never intended to limit my
freedom of worship, which is a basic right for a Jewish person in a Jewish state
that no piece of paper could or should deny.
“No person – man or woman –
should ever be asked to wave their religious rights in a democracy or especially
in a Jewish state,” the teenager wrote.
“It would mean a lot to my family
and I to be able to read Megilat Esther at the Kotel on Monday... I would never
knowingly sign away those rights, and hopefully one day they’ll stop asking.
Access to holy sites is a universal right.”
Attorney David Barhoom
presented Silverman’s letter and a summation in Hebrew to the investigations
officer, who agreed to her request and granted her permission to visit the
Western Wall on Purim, which in Jerusalem falls on Monday, for the traditional
reading of the megila.
Outside the police station, she expressed relief
that she would not have to miss the reading and added that she thought it was
wrong that she was detained “for such a natural activity as praying at the
Western Wall.” She added that she looked forward to the “moment in history” when
the law is changed.
In 2003, the Supreme Court upheld the right of the
Women of the Wall, an activist group, to pray at the Western Wall according to
their custom, but in the same decision ruled that this right was “not an
unlimited right” and that the rights of others who might be offended by
different customs should also be protected, as well as emphasizing the
importance of maintaining order and preventing violence at the site.
police have interpreted the law in recent years as allowing women to wear
colorful tallitot around their shoulders, which police refer to as “female
tallitot,” while prohibiting the use by women of larger “male tallitot,” which
are blue and white or black and white, and worn folded across the
Susan Silverman said that it was “ridiculous that a small sect
of people could affect the lives of the rest of the population” and called for
“democracy” to be enacted at the site.
The rabbi said that it was “hard
to feel sensitive to people who draw up laws against other peoples’ right to
prayer,” when asked whether the sensitivities of others needed to be taken into
account at holy sites, Jewish or non-Jewish, adding that offending the feelings
of others in a democracy could not always be prevented.
“It’s not my job
to keep some people from having inappropriate thoughts,” Silverman
The Supreme Court ruling in 2003 also stipulated that a section of
the Western Wall further south of and separated from the Western Wall Plaza be
designated as a place of prayer for the Women of the Wall and non-Orthodox
groups, and that the government ensure that the site is upgraded to be an
appropriate place of prayer.
The site has not been adequately upgraded,
however, and is not available in the evenings.
The same ruling stated
that if these arrangements were not made within 12 months, the government would
be obligated to set up appropriate arrangements for the Women of the Wall to
pray at the Western Wall Plaza.