This week produced a reminder of the lack of separation of temple and state in Israel where the government routinely enforces Jewish religious laws. Tourists at the Western Wall watched as women were arrested in Jerusalem’s Old City for merely wearing prayer shawls in defiance of Orthodox beliefs. Orthodox laws govern the activities at the wall and Orthodox Jews believe that only men can wear shawls and pray at the wall.
Women have been attacked by Orthodox Jews for trying to pray at the wall. On this occasion, the Israeli police arrested five women on April 11, 2013 — part of a group of 120 women.
A group called Women of the Wall organizes such protests. Orthodox rabbis forbid men and women praying together at the wall.
One ultra-Orthodox man was detained for burning a religious book belonging to the Women of the Wall. It seems that this faithful man does not see anything immoral in burning a Jewish prayer book.
The arrests led some to again question the control given ultra-Orthodox rabbis over the site. One could also consider the ongoing controversy of Israel’s general enforcement of religious laws that results in continuing controversies particularly with the large number of secular Jews. (here and here). The Israeli Supreme Court is viewed by many as nudging the country away from the enforcement of Orthodox laws. (here and here).