In an apparent victory for the “Women of the Wall” movement, Israel’s high court suggested in a ruling Wednesday that women should be allowed to read from the Torah at the Western Wall.
According to the Forward, the court gave Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the Administrator of the Western Wall, 30 days to explain why women should be prevented from praying “in accordance with their custom” at the wall.
Women of the Wall president Anat Hoffman praised the high court’s move, saying it represents a step toward “implementation of the Western Wall agreement on gender equality and religious freedom at the wall.”
“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,” Hoffman said, according to Times of Israel.
The court ordered that body searches at the Western Wall intended to prevent women from smuggling in Torah scrolls also be stopped. The ruling was made in response to a petition brought by the Original Women of the Wall (OWOW), a splinter group which rejected the Israeli government’s January 2016 agreement to create an “egalitarian” prayer space for Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews at Robinson’s Arch. That petition was combined with two others as well.
Founded in 1988 by the late Canadian activist Bonna Devorah Haberman, Women of the Wall is an non-denominational organization including both Orthodox and non-Orthodox women. It has garnered a polarizing response, with members provoking the ire of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox by donning religious garments traditionally reserved for men, singing, and reading aloud from the Torah.