In landmark decision, High Court rules for women’s Western Wall prayer
Government given 30 days to show ‘good cause’ why women can’t read from Torah scrolls at the holy site.
In a landmark High Court decision Wednesday, the state was given 30 days to find “good cause” why a woman may not read aloud from a Torah scroll as part of prayer services at the Western Wall. The sweeping decision, jointly addressing three petitions on related topics, ruled that assuming the government cannot find “good cause,” not only may women read from the Torah at the Western Wall, but also that the government may no longer argue that the Robinson’s Arch area of the plaza constitutes “access to the Western Wall.” The court did not address a January 2016 government decision to build a permanent pluralistic prayer pavilion in the Robinson’s Arch area, which is currently also an archaeological park.
Further, contrary to current practice under the plaza’s administration by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, women will no longer be subjected to body searches for “contraband” Jewish ritual objects by foundation staff.
If the state fails to find “good cause” for not permitting women to read from the Torah, it is yet to be determined whether they will be granted access to the hundreds of scrolls now located in the men’s section of the Western Wall plaza.
“The Center for Women’s Justice is overjoyed by our landmark decision today in the Supreme Court. It’s a major victory not only for our clients, Original Women of the Wall, but for all citizens of Israel. Today’s ruling is a significant game-changer because it holds our democracy to a higher standard,” said Dr. Susan Weiss. Weiss is the director of the Center for Women’s Justice and the lawyer representing four members of the Original Women of the Wall, who brought the original High Court petition.
The decision was celebrated by activists and allies around the Jewish world.
“Just when it seemed the rabbinate’s power was overwhelming, the court’s verdict regarding our demand to read Torah at the women’s section of the Western Wall reflects both courage and wisdom,” said Anat Hoffman, head of the Women of the Wall activist group.
“Today, we have come much closer toward implementation of the Western Wall agreement on gender equality and religious freedom at the Wall. I am elated because when I was looking for justice, and then courage, they were missing, and now the highest court in the land has shown me both.”According to a statement from OWOW following the ruling, that regulation “flagrantly violates Israeli law against discrimination in access to or use of public property.” Further, the Western Wall “is not a synagogue,” the group said, “but ‘a national holy site,’ that is, a public space. The rabbinic administrator does not allow women access to the dozens of Torah scrolls held at the Kotel, and this too, violates Israeli law against discrimination.”
According to both Women of the Wall and OWOW, women have been habitually harassed and subjected to degrading body searches for Jewish ritual objects.
While still awaiting the final decision, attorney Weiss, who represents OWOW, said, “The Center for Women’s Justice will continue to contest every attempt of rabbinic authorities to expand their jurisdiction and to enact regulations that are beyond the scope of laws of the state from which they derive their authority and which defines their jurisdiction.”
What is in the court decision:
In the ruling written by Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein on Wednesday, three petitions were joined.
Access to the Western Wall: The court decided in favor of the petition claiming that Robinson’s Arch is not “access” to the Western Wall. It wrote, “No full alternative solution has yet been found” in regards to women’s access to the Western Wall. According to the ruling, the government decision proposing the solution of Robinson’s Arch area, which lies to the south of the traditional prayer pavilions, was not realized, therefore the women currently do not have true access.
Body searches: The court ruled on Wednesday that employees of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation must immediately desist from body searches on the women visiting the holy site, aside from normative security checks.
Female Torah reading: In regards to allowing women to bring in a Torah scroll to the women’s section of the Western Wall, the court ruled there are currently conflicting regulations and prior court decisions on the matter.
According to the decision, the current practice of allowing women to wear prayer shawls and phylacteries is acceptable to Rabinovitch, but not Torah reading. Therefore, the court is giving the state an additional 30 days to argue “good cause” for forbidding women to read from the Torah at the Western Wall — or allow it.
Welcome to the website of the Australian Reform Zionist Association (ARZA). ARZA works to help ensure that Israel can live in peace and security, both within, and at the borders of her neighbours. ARZA works to ensure that Israel is a democratic and inclusive society for all of its inhabitants and is a spiritual home for all Jews. ARZA Australia represents the values and views of Progressive Jews locally and, via our global parent organisation ARZENU, around the world.
Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Australian Reform Zionist of Association Inc. (ARZA) held at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday 20 November 2016 at The Esplanade, Scarborough, Western Australia.
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When MKs, ministers and prominent (state-funded) rabbis call us Reform Jews 'dogs' and 'idolaters' and face no sanction, who's surprised their devotees now attack our synagogues and threaten our leaders?
This is my first private visit to Israel after completing my term as President of ARZA Australia but it has changed my view of many things there.
When planning my trip I realised that I would be in Jerusalem for Rosh Chodesh.
Rosh HaShannah - the Jewish new year of 5777 is almost upon us. In households around the world, people will gather for time with family and festive meals. Unfortunately, for too many Israeli families, the holiday season is also a reminder of financial strain and socio-economic struggle. Close to two million Israelis live under the poverty line and struggle day in and day out with making ends meet. The holiday season, a time of hightened expenses, provides for a sore reminder of this reality.
The IMPJ, guided by the belief that all people were created b'tzelem elohim - in the image of God, is committed to helping those less fortunte all year-round, and especially during the High Holiday season. As such, each year, Keren b'Kavod - the Fund for Humanitarian Assistance and Social Responsibility works extra hard to provide those less fortunate with care packages, including canned goods, honey, non-pershiables, blankets, clothing and more, ensuring that everyone can celebrate the holidays with dignity.
This year, we call on you to be our partners by adding a real Mitzvah to your new year and engaging in T'zdakah, by donating to the Keren b'Kavod High Holiday Campaign. Your donation will help ensure that a greater number of Israelis can begin the new year with hope.
Be a part of the change – support an Israeli family in need this High Holiday season!
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Shannah Tova from the IMPJ!