Women of the Wall executive director Lesley Sachs was detained by Jerusalem police on June 7 for smuggling a small Torah scroll into the women’s section of the Western Wall.
The group said she was detained for “disturbing the public order” after a prayer service of about 80 female worshippers read from the Torah. Sachs was exiting the prayer plaza when she was detained with the Torah. She is being held for questioning.
Private Torah scrolls are not allowed at the Western Wall plaza, according to rules drafted by Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz and approved by the Justice Ministry. Rabinowitz has refused to allow Women of the Wall to access the Torah scrolls in the men’s section. Sachs is the fourth woman arrested with a Torah scroll since 2010.
Yizhar Hess, the executive director of the Conservative Movement in Israel, criticized the police for following Rabinowitz’s rules instead of “doing its job and keeping the law.”
“Israel is the only democracy in the world where Jews do not enjoy freedom of religion,” he said.
The Torah was lent to Women of the Wall by Congregation B’nai Israel from Sacramento, California.
Naomi Zeveloff is the Middle East correspondent of the Forward, primarily covering Israel and the Palestinian Territories.