Israel’s High Court Rules for Women’s Prayer at Western Wall

January, 11 2017

By Ellen Wexler

In a ruling Wednesday, Israel’s high court signaled that women should be allowed to read Torah at the Western Wall. The court said that Robinson’s Arch, an area currently designated an alternative prayer space, does not constitute equal access, and it gave Western Wall administrators 30 days to explain why women “should not be allowed to pray in accordance with their custom at the traditional plaza.”

The justices also ordered that women should no longer undergo body searches. Recently, Western Wall administrators have been using body searches to ensure that women aren’t bringing Torah scrolls with them to the women’s section.

“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,” Anat Hoffman, head of Women of the Wall, told the Times of Israel. “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.”

The new ruling is the culmination of a complex, years-long conversation about religion, power and equality—and Moment has been watching it closely. To learn more about these issues, read our profile of Hoffman and our feature on the power of Israel’s rabbinate.

Anat Hoffman Dares to Take On Israel’s Orthodox Establishment. Can She Win?

Anat Hoffman has been in headlines today—but she’s been working behind the scenes for years to make this happen. It appears that she’s won this particular battle, but can she win the larger struggle? After all, it isn’t only about who owns the Western Wall, she says. “It’s about who owns Judaism in Israel.”

The Theocracy in Democracy Project: An Uneasy Union

The rabbinate is a major player in the ongoing struggle over religion and power in Israel. For critics of the rabbinate’s role in Israeli life, Wednesday’s ruling is a major step—but the ruling’s implications still aren’t clear, and there’s still plenty of opportunity for regression.

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