Israeli police have detained 10 women at one of Judaism's most sacred sites 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 liberal streams of Judaism and politically powerful Orthodox groups that 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 reading from the holy scriptures.

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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.

Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for national police, said that the women had acted "against regulations set by the High Court".