Women should not have been arrested at Western Wall, judge rules

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Women praying together out loud at the Western Wall in prayer shawls did not disturb the public order and should not have been arrested, an Israeli court found.

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The Jerusalem District Court on Thursday ruled that five women from the Women of The Wall group should not have been arrested and rejected a police request for a restraining order against the women from the site.

The women arrested on April 11 were questioned for several hours by police before their release. Jerusalem Magistrate Court Judge Sharon Larry-Bavly ordered their release and rejected the police request that they be prevented from visiting the site for three months.

Thursday’s hearing was over an appeal by the police, requesting the three-month restraining order.

In his decision, Judge Moshe Sobell said that the Supreme Court decision of 2003, which upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin or tallit prayer shawls, or reading from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall, never intended to serve as an injunction which would apply criminal violations to women, according to a statement issued by the Women of the Wall after the hearing. The decision also did not ban Women of the Wall from praying at the Western Wall in the women’s section, he said. The judge also said that the women were not a danger to the public and that their prayer did not disturb the public order. 

“The most important aspect of this ruling is the fact that Women of the Wall’s prayer in the women’s section of the Western Wall does not violate the “local custom” and therefore does not imply a reasonable doubt of violation of the Law of Holy Places The court has rejected any reasonable cause for a policy of repeated detainment and arrests of Women of the Wall by police,” said Women of the Wall attorneys David Barhoum and Einat Horovitz in a statement.

Women of the Wall has held a special prayer service at the holy site almost each month for the last 20 years on Rosh Chodesh, or the beginning of a new Hebrew month, at the back of the women’s section.

Women participating in the Rosh Chodesh service have been arrested nearly every month since June for wearing prayer shawls or for “disturbing public order.

“Today Women of the Wall liberated the Western Wall for all Jewish people. We did it for the eight-year-old girl who can now dream of having her Bat Mitzvah at the Wall, and for the grandmother who cannot climb on a chair in order to see her grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. We did it for the great diversity of Jews in the world, all of whom deserve to pray according to their belief and custom at the Western Wall,” Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall chair, said in a statement.

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