It's old news that fundamentalists control religious expression at the Kotel (Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem. In 1995, I used one of Caltech's first color printers to make an "I support the Women of the Wall" button. The Women of the Wall is a small but strong group of women who daven (pray) regularly at the Kotel in a traditional women's-only service.
Women of the Wall are routinely harassed when they come to daven, because, you know, the most pressing thing for Jerusalem's Jewish police officers to do is to arrest religious Jewish women for praying respectfully at their holiest site. To be fair, it's not really the police's fault, but the fault of their employers, the peculiarly theocratic and misogynist controllers of the Kotel.
But now I read this recent news, about someone it turns out I know! She's Deb Houben, who davens at my synagogue in Cambridge when she's in town, and who conflicts with me for Perek 8 of Megillat Esther :) at Purim. It turns out that this sweet woman is actually a hardened criminal, which is to say feminist, so she was arrested:
Apparently, shunting the women to Robinson's Arch and harassing them for decades wasn't enough. Now they've arrested and detained women (Houben is just the latest) for wearing tallit while davening. According to the article, while all tallitot are forbidden by city ordinance for women at the Kotel itself, some styles of "feminine" tallitot are allowed in the Robinson's Arch area. The official Kotel Rabbi, a Shmuel Rabinowitz who is quoted in the article, claims that halakha (Jewish Law) backs him up, but many other Orthodox rabbis are not in concordance with his position.
This was a recent discussion on the mailing list Mail.Jewish of this topic, including sources:
I replied in a later issue:
It is so infuriating that these men won't give up even a tiny bit of their exclusive privilege - and that they distort *my* religion to give themselves backing.