As reported by Failed Messiah (via Jerusalem Post and Haaretz) police in Jerusalem arrested a woman yesterday for wearing her talis at the kotel. The arrest was certainly symbolic, with the woman being released in under an hour, but the principle being symbolized is one no right-thinking Jew should support.
According to halacha, a woman is exempt from wearing a talis, but nothing in our law forbids it either. As with taking the lulav, a woman is free to wear a talis if she chooses. Many women do not wear a talis because they see it as unfeminine or untraditional and that choice must be respected, but a woman who believes that wearing a talis strengthens her connection to Judaism, or improves her prayer is also making a valid halachic choice, and that choice must be defended.
The kotel is a place of prayer. The role of police who are stationed at the kotel is to protect people who wish to pray, such as that woman. They are not there to protect the pious from seeing permitted, but unwelcome sights. Unless that woman was creating a disturbance and interfering with the prayer of others, the police misused their authority and acted as tools of one Jewish sect at the expense of another. By arresting her they declared that the kotel is Orthodox occupied territory, rather than a shrine and a heritage for all Jews.
If this precedent is not protested, and the police are permitted to enforce the traditions and preferences of a single sect of Jews, who will be dragged away from the kotel next? Those of us who wear knitted kiopot? Women who cover their hair with wigs, rather than wraps? Male children who've had hair cuts before the age of three? The ultra-orthodox men who contrary to well-established law and tradition say krias shma after the zman? Draw the line in the sand now, and stand up for that woman, and her legitimate choice. To do otherwise is to put your own legitimate traditions and pactices in danger of being snuffed out by the smug, the narrow minded and the ahistorical.
Answering Steven Cohen:
SC: The wall is by all rights orthodox territory. it always was.
Untrue. Orthodox Judaism is less than 200 years old. Would you have allowed Rashi's tfillin wearing daughters to pray at the kotel? Why or why not?
SC: if you want to reject orthodox tradtion find your own place to pray.
Donning a talis is NOT a rejection of Orthodox tradition, as Orthodox tradition never expressly prohibited a woman from wearing a talis, just as it never expressly forbid her from taking a lulav, but more to the point, the kotel isn't an orthodox place. When Christians (like the POPE!) visit the kotel do you insist they say krias shma, and perform an OJ prayer? Why or why not?
SC: I promise not to come into your chosen place of worship and object to how you do it.
By objecting to how she prays at the kotel, which belongs to her every bit as much as it belongs to you, that's precisely what you are doing.
SC: dont go into the vatican and try to run a baptist service. dont go to mecca and run a bahai service.
How amusing that you think the Muslims set a good example. Which of their other habits should we emulate? As for the Church, what a rotten analogy. Anyone can come to the kotel, and pray any way they like, including Xtians, who invoke Jesus and cross themselves on the plaza! Why is this women more of a threat to you then they are?!
SC: dont come to the wall and try to run a new type of service.
By calling it a new type of service, you are being ahistorical. There was nothing "new" about her attempt to pray in a talis.
Search for more information about pluralism and legitimate halachic variations at 4torah.com.