Israel High Court rules in favor of women’s prayer at Western Wall.

Feminism in Israel scored a goal over sexist laws when a High Court gave the government a time-limit of 30 days to show a good cause as to why a woman cannot read from a Torah Scroll at the Western Wall. If the government and the site administration are unable to come up with a good reason, then the High Court has indicated it would legally force the governing bodies to allow women to be part of the services. This could be a landmark ruling in Israel’s history.

The court has sent notices to Western Wall administrator Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, state agencies such as the Prime Minister’s Office, the Religious Services Ministry as well as the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. As per the court’s orders, these parties will have to give good reasons for not allowing women to pray or worship according to their custom at the traditional plaza, or at any other site that has access to the Western Wall.

Earlier women would visit the Wall with the Torah hidden. In 2010, a new directive by Rabbi Rabinowitz prohibited women from getting or using a Torah in the women’s prayer area at the holy site. In fact, women were even searched to prevent them from carrying the Torah to the place. Such searches had the backing of The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, an Orthodox Jewish body that oversees the administration of the Wall. Women are even prevented from carrying prayer shawls, menorahs and tefillin.

The court is acting on three petitions, including members of the Women of the Wall, and the Original Women of the Wall (OWOW), a new organization fighting for women’s right to pray at the Wall. The OWOW broke away from the original group, Women of the Wall, after they compromised in their demands and settled simply for a separate space to pray.

The court’s ruling was praised by both the groups. The Women of the Wall acknowledge that the court’s ruling had brought them closer to an era of gender equality and religious freedom at the Wall. The Original Women of the Wall praised the court’s decision saying on Facebook saying, “In its ruling, the Court put the onus on the defendants to justify withholding Jewish women’s rights to full religious expression, rather than asking us to defend that we have them. This is a momentous ruling.” 

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