Jerusalem court upholds women’s prayer rights at Western Wall

JERUSALEM — Women who want to wear prayer shawls while praying in the women’s section of the Western Wall are … Continued

JERUSALEM — Women who want to wear prayer shawls while praying in the women’s section of the Western Wall are not breaking the law, according to a landmark decision handed down Thursday (April 25) by the Jerusalem District Court.

Israeli police arrested five women on April 11 who were dressed in prayer shawls while praying with Women of the Wall, an activist group that prays at Judaism’s most sacred site once a month.

Immediately following those arrests, a lower court judge ruled that the women had not violated “local custom,” a legal concept intended to keep the fragile peace at holy sites. The Western Wall is a remnant of the Second Temple that was destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago.

Thursday’s ruling by the higher court upheld that ruling and rejected an appeal filed by the police, who argued Women of the Wall’s practices violate a 2003 Supreme Court decision and disrupt the public order.

Israel’s ultra-Orthodox religious establishment has long maintained that the group’s practices offend more traditional Jews, who believe only men are allowed to lead group prayers or wear prayer shawls.

Following Thursday’s ruling, Anat Hoffman, the group’s chairwoman, said that “today, Women of the Wall liberated the Western Wall for all Jewish people. … We did it for the great diversity of Jews in the world, all of whom deserve to pray according to their belief and custom at the Western Wall.”

Shira Pruce, the group’s spokeswoman, said the struggle will continue until they see “girls permitted to have a bat mitzvah (coming of age ceremony) at the Wall with a Torah, with a tallit (prayer shawl) , or however they wish and believe.”

In a statement, Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency and a government emissary charged with trying to quell the dispute, said the ruling “only strengthen(s) the need for a sustainable, agreed solution, which will allow every Jew to feel at home at the Western Wall, as the basis for any resolution.” Sharansky had recently proposed adding a third egalitarian section that would allow mixed-gender prayers.

A spokesperson for the Justice Ministry told the Times of Israel that it was too soon to comment on a possible appeal by the state prosecutor to the Supreme Court. A police spokesman could not be reached for comment.

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  • allinthistogether

    This ruling is a solid step toward the maturing of the Israeli nation – toward their being willing to ask of themselves the same that they ask of all other nations on the earth.

  • erq682

    Isnt the separation of church and state a fundamental requirement for democracy?

    Tell me again why it is that successive US`presidents, including Obama, have declared America to “unconditionally support” Israel.

  • Roland Thom

    Sad that the Washinton Post reporter did not take the time to research the issue and present the other side. Israel, unlike EVERY other country in the middle east, permits freedom of religious expression. There are churches, mosques and synagogues of every shape and form. However, the western wall plaza has been designated as an orthodox synagogue since its inception and one is expected to act there according to orthodox Jewish norms that are 1000’s of years old. Anat Hoffman and WOW are reform Jews that want to impose their newfangled form of ‘judaism’ on everyone else. That is their ‘crime’. They are there to be activists not worshippers. Had they gone to visit or worship in a mosque (I am not sure women are permitted in but if they were) they would be expected to remove their shoes and show respect and not publicly wear a cross or Jewish star. I am sure that when they visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre not far from the wall they don’t cried out Allahu Akbar or put on tefillin.