Israel cops hold 10 women for wearing prayer shawls at holy site

Updated 11 February 2013
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Israel cops hold 10 women for wearing prayer shawls at holy site

JERUSALEM: 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 US 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 also detained.
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 to Moses the 10 Commandments.


Nearly a year since fall of Iraq’s Mosul, hunt for bodies goes on

Updated 21 May 2018
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Nearly a year since fall of Iraq’s Mosul, hunt for bodies goes on

  • “The operations will continue until all the corpses are extracted” from the heart of the city
  • The rubble makes it impossible to bring in heavy construction machinery

MOSUL: Atop an enormous mound of rubble under blistering sun in Iraq’s second city Mosul, fire crews and police chip away at a grim but vital task.
Some 10 months after dislodging the Daesh group, they are still extracting bodies from the ruins of the shattered Old City.
“Over three days, 763 bodies have been pulled from the rubble and buried,” Lt. Col. Rabie Ibrahim says.
Despite the overpowering stench, the men work relentlessly, braving unexploded munitions in an area devastated by the nine-month battle.
“The operations will continue until all the corpses are extracted” from the heart of the city, Ibrahim says.
Civilians’ bodies that can be identified are handed to their families, while the remains of Daesh combatants are buried in a mass grave on the western outskirts of Mosul.
Some of the putrefied corpses are sent to Nineveh province’s health services, Ibrahim adds.
The workers, their faces covered with masks or scarves, move with great caution.
The bodies of jihadists are sometimes still clad in suicide belts.
Grenades, homemade bombs and other crude contraptions left by Daesh fighters during their retreat to Syria pose a constant threat.
The improvised boobytraps are hidden under multiple layers and obstacles — the rubble of collapsed homes, disemboweled furniture and uprooted trees, in some places subsiding into the waters of the Tigris that meander murkily below.
Where a maze of cobbled streets was once lined with homes and market stalls, there is now a formless mess populated by stray animals, insects and disease.
The destruction is so great that some residents cannot pinpoint the remnants of their homes or even their street as they try to direct salvage workers to the remains of loved ones.
The rubble makes it impossible to bring in heavy construction machinery, says General Hossam Khalil, who leads Nineveh province’s civil defense force.
His men therefore have to rely on smaller vehicles, but Mosul “only has a few,” he says.
There is a pressure to work as quickly as conditions will allow: residents are exhausted by three years of Daesh rule, nine months of brutal urban combat and now the slow pace of reconstruction.
“But it’s impossible, with this stench, this pollution and the epidemics they can cause,” says Othmane Saad, an unemployed 40-year-old whose home in the old city is entirely destroyed.
Another resident, 33-year-old Abu Adel, wants the authorities “to clear all the corpses as quickly as possible” and to “compensate residents so they can rebuild, then establish public services.”
But the task is titanic.
Since Mosul was retaken in July, “2,838 bodies, including 600 Daesh members, have been retrieved from the rubble,” governor Naufel Sultane says.
Even after the corpses are taken away and buried, they leave harmful bacteria which the Tigris can carry far beyond the old city.
The authorities insist drinking water stations are unaffected and that they pump water from the Tigris’ central depths, avoiding the banks and other shallows.
But gastroenterologist Ahmed Ibrahim advises caution.
“You must boil water before drinking it and don’t use river water, either for bathing or washing,” he says.
Birds and fish “can carry typhus, bilharzia and gastroenteritis,” he adds.