Israeli police recently detained comedienne Sarah Silverman's sister, a reform rabbi named Susan Silverman, in Jerusalem after she and a group of women tried to pray at the Western Wall - the holiest site in Judaism, frequented mostly by ultra-Orthodox men.
Silverman, known for her explicit comedy, voiced her support for her sister, who is one of three and the only one living in the Jewish state, on Twitter, saying: "SO proud of my amazing sister @rabbisusan & niece@purplelettuce95 for their b----out civil disobedience. Ur the [expletive]! #womenofthewall"
Susan lives in Israel with her husband and five children. She visited the Western Wall, where worshippers pray and stick in the cracks notes to God, with a liberal group called Women of the Wall. She, her teenage daughter Hallel and eight other female members were detained for several hours on Monday, February 11, and then released with no charges filed, Israeli police said.
The authorities said the women were arrested because they wore prayer shawls, which defies a 10-year-old High Court ruling that states women cannot wear them at the holy site because it would offend ultra-Orthodox men. In 1988, police had to stop a riot started by ultra-Orthodox men who had protested against women who showed up in prayer shawls.
Many ultra-Orthodox Jews believe it is unholy for women to wear such garb or even be in close proximity to men in general. The Western Wall area is gender-segregated, separated by a fence. There have been incidents in which ultra-Orthodox worshippers have protested against men and women praying together, throwing rocks and bags of excrement at them.
In addition to the Women of the Wall members, some 300 people had gathered at the holy site to protest the current Orthodox control of it.
"This was a very polite and respectful prayer [session]. This is just absurd," David Barhoum, the group's lawyer, told the Israeli news website Ynet. "It may defy the High Court's ruling that says it is not customary for women to wear prayer shawls, but the question is whether there was a public disturbance and whether what happened justifies arrest."
(Pictured above: Wrapped in Jewish prayer shawls, Rabbi Susan Silverman and her teenage daughter Hallel, second right, are detained by police officers in Jerusalem's Old City, near the Western Wall, on Feb. 11, 2013. / Jewish men and women are separated as they pray in front the western wall in Jerusalem on Nov. 23, 2007. Credit: AP Photos / Tali Mayer / Anja Niedringhaus)