Breakthrough for Women at the Kotel

Israel’s High Court of Justice has given the Israeli government 30 days (verdict expected 2nd February) to explain why women should not be allowed to read from the Torah at the women’s section of the Kotel (Western Wall). This latest ruling, which appears to set the stage for a major religious pluralism victory, follows three years of court discussions on a range of petitions by NIF grantees including Women of the Wall, the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), and the Masorti (Conservative) Movement.

The High Court of Justice also outlawed the intrusive body searches of women entering the plaza conducted by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. Further, in the injunction the justices wrote that the pluralist prayer section established at the southern end of the Western Wall, known as Robinson’s Arch, does not constitute an equal alternative to the central Western Wall prayer sections because it lacks full access to the wall itself.

“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 Women of the Wall.

“Today, we have come much closer to 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.”

January 2017