Sharansky says women should not be arrested at Kotel

JAFI chairman to submit recommendations for resolution of Kotel crisis to PM within first month of new coalition.

Anat Hoffman arrested during Women of the Wall service 370 (photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)
Anat Hoffman arrested during Women of the Wall service 370
(photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky said Tuesday that he pushed for the police not to arrest members of the Women of the Wall activist group on Monday for wearing “male-style” prayer shawls at the Kotel.
Their blue-and-white or black-and-white prayer shawls violated rules set down by Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinowitz.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had tasked Sharansky with formulating a compromise solution for the problem, which arises at the beginning of each Hebrew month, or Rosh Hodesh. He plans to present his recommendations within a month after the formation of a new government.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, the Jewish Agency chairman noted that he had met with police representatives leading up to the Rosh Hodesh Adar services in an attempt to diffuse the situation, and as a result, “the police made a big effort to meet our request and use female officers and not males to prevent any violence toward the women.”
During a speech on Monday to a group of American Jewish leaders visiting Israel on a mission organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Sharansky said that due to his intervention – and because the women did not cause any irritation or disturbance – the police allowed them to conduct their services before making any arrests.
Sharansky said that after the police decided to proceed and arrest 10 women, he was “acting in real time” and contacted his representatives in the field to try to “convince the police not to arrest the women and to make sure that they were released as soon as possible, because I believe that the arrests were a mistake.”
He did say, however, during his speech on Monday that the police had acted properly.
Despite his opposition to the arrests, Sharansky noted that the Supreme Court had upheld the right of the rabbinate to maintain the “minhag hamakom,” or local tradition, at the site. Women on the Wall “violated the law,” he said.
“Of course it has to explained to the women that they are breaking the law, but there is no need to arrest them. What does that give us?” Sharansky asked.