* Orthodox law supreme at Jerusalem's Western Wall
* Women activists hold monthly prayer sessions at site
JERUSALEM, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Israeli police detained 10
women at one of Judaism's most sacred sites on Monday for
wearing prayer shawls, which Orthodox tradition sees as solely
for men, a spokesman said.
The incident at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City
highlighted the divisions between the more liberal streams of
Judaism and politically powerful Orthodox groups that
traditionally limit the role of women in prayer.
The Western Wall is administered under strict Orthodox
ritual law, which bars women from wearing prayer shawls or
publicly reading from the holy scriptures.
Among those held was Susan Silverman, a reform rabbi who is
a sister of U.S. comedian Sarah Silverman. Two other American
citizens and Israeli members of "Women of the Wall", a group
that campaigns for gender equality in religious practice, were
The group routinely convenes for monthly prayer sessions at
the Western Wall, revered by Jews as a perimeter wall of the
Biblical Temple in Jerusalem. Some of its members have been
detained by police in the past for wearing prayer shawls at the
site and released without charge.
Susan Silverman, who immigrated to Israel from Boston, said
police escorted the group, including her 17-year-old daughter,
to a station after they refused to remove prayer shawls.
The rabbi said in a telephone interview from the police
station where the group was held that they had been among more
than 100 women attending the hour-long prayer session.
"They (police) said 'take off your prayer shawls', and we
said 'no'," Silverman said. Once the prayers were over they were
escorted away, she said.
Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for national police, said the
women had acted "against regulations set by the High Court",
citing a decision of a decade ago upholding Orthodox rules at
the site to avoid friction between worshippers.
Silverman said the Orthodox tradition barring women from
wearing prayer shawls amounted to "spitting on Sinai", naming
the site where the Bible says God handed the ancient Israelite
leader Moses the 10 Commandments.
"All Jews are in a covenant with God," regardless of their
gender, she said.
(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Alison Williams)