This April 2013 ruling of the Jerusalem District Court is a long-sought victory for the Women of the Wall. The decision coincides with active discussions between Jewish Agency President Natan Sharansky and Jewish communal leaders regarding a plan to renovate the Western Wall plaza to accommodate a greatly expanded, separate space for egalitarian prayer at Robinson’s Arch.
The decision rejects the notion that members of Women of the Wall were disturbing the peace, acting provocatively, or violating the sanctity of a holy place by conducting prayer services at the Western Wall on April 11, 2013. Citing prior Supreme Court decisions that the term “local custom” in the Regulations for the Protection of Holy Places to the Jews should be understood in a manner that allows for the acceptance of multiple prayer customs, Judge Sobel held that the women had not disturbed public order or violated the law. The decision upholds the right of Women of the Wall and other Jews to pray at the Kotel as they wish, in accordance with prior decisions of the Supreme Court, and places the onus for the disturbances at the Wall on provocateurs who act to prevent the convening of pluralistic or egalitarian services. Judge Sobel also details the legal history of challenges to the regulations barring non-Orthodox prayer at the Kotel, providing a concise overview of the controversy. As the Attorney General has announced that he will not request leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, the decision constitutes binding precedent for the lower courts.
This translation of Judge Sobel’s ruling was commissioned by the Rabbinical Assembly from Rabbi Avinoam Sharon, a doctoral fellow in Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary, a member of the Israel Bar Association, and a former editor and translator of the Israel Law Reports.
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