Jewish women eye further court fight for Western Wall prayer rights

April 29, 2013

(Members of “Women of the Wall” group pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City April 11, 2013.  REUTERS/Baz Ratner )

Women seeking equal prayer rights at the Western Wall are planning a further challenge to Jewish Orthodox tradition at the site after a court ruling bolstered their cause, an activist said on Sunday.

The Women of the Wall movement hopes to have its members read from a Torah (holy scriptures) scroll at the Jerusalem site, a ritual reserved under Orthodox practice for men only, when it holds its monthly prayer session there on May 10, according to Anat Hoffman, a leader of the group.

The women have already broken with tradition in gatherings at the Western Wall, which is divided into separate men’s and women’s sections, by wearing prayer shawls that Orthodox law says only men should don.

Israeli police, saying they were enforcing Supreme Court guidelines on keeping the peace and following local customs at the site, have routinely arrested women worshippers from the group during the prayer meetings.

The protests have exposed a rift between Israel’s government, which supports Orthodox practice at the Western Wall, and the U.S. Jewish Reform and Conservative movements, in whose synagogues men and women sit together.

In a ruling that Women of the Wall called revolutionary, the Jerusalem District Court said on Thursday that customs change and women should not be arrested for wearing prayer shawls at the site.

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