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Hallel Silverman
Proud Progressive Israeli

10 Years After Being Arrested…

Janos Chiala/AFP/Getty Images

February 11th, 2013 – 10 years ago today – I was arrested with my mom, Rabbi Susan Silverman at the Western Wall. Our crime? Praying at the Kotel while wearing a tallit (prayer shawl). Two months after our arrest in 2013, the Supreme Court of Israel changed the law and granted women the legal right to pray at the Western Wall with a tallit. That historic win came from decades of Women of the Wall fighting for our religious freedom. In such a small country, change can happen fast, both change that brings us forward as a society and change that brings us backwards. 

Thursday brought a wave of shock across the Jewish Diaspora and progressive Israeli communities, as Aryeh Deri , leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party declared his intent to criminalize religious practices at the Western Wall that don’t align with his ultra-orthodox values. His proposed bill could see followers face up to 6 months in prison for praying with a Tallit (prayer shawl), wearing “immodest” clothing, or engaging in mixed gender worship at the Western Wall.

After an outpouring of outrage stemming from  Deri’s abrupt announcement, Prime Minister Netanyahu ensured the public that the controversial bill will not be implemented…right now. While some may take comfort from this assurance – I don’t. Netanyahu signed “The Kotel Deal” in 2016, which promised the construction of a third, egalitarian section added to the Western Wall. Which, of course, Netanyahu has yet to implement. 

Deri’s ridiculous bill isn’t being pushed right now, thanks to the outcry, and yet it’s clear that we must remain vigilant on any attempts to impose religious laws or restrictions on Jews looking to express themselves freely through prayer purely based on denomination. We must ensure that progressive Israeli Jews and members of the Jewish diaspora worldwide no longer feel they don’t have a place where all Jews should be welcome. 

If we stay still much longer we will start moving backwards.

10 things I’ve learnt in the 10 years since my arrest:

  1. Israel is small enough that you can be part of fighting for her soul
  2. The power of social media 
  3. ALWAYS brush your hair before leaving the house (see my hair in any of the arrest photos)
  4. My mom is the best
  5. We got some scaryyyy extremists here that cannot be allowed this much power
  6. The Jewish people have to accept one another instead of fighting over our differences
  7. It’s okay to be afraid sometimes
  8. Fight policy, not people
  9. Choose kindness 
  10. Loving Israel is not supporting everything she does — but fighting for her to be her best self
About the Author
Hallel Silverman is an American born, Israeli raised digital activist located in Tel Aviv. With nearly a decade in Israel Advocacy, Hallel has created and executed content for dozens of major organizations, and has been a leading voice online for progressive Zionism. She is an associate at the Tel Aviv Institute.
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