Court Decides Not to Punish Jewish Women For Praying at the Western Wall


Five women who were recently detained at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for daring to pray alongside men at Israel’s holiest site will not be penalized for “disturbing public order” by virtue of their gender. Progress!

To recap: there’s ongoing contention over whether women should be allowed to pay their respects to the Western Wall by praying aloud, reading from the Torah, and wearing religious garments — practices currently deemed men-only by Israeli law. This year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to assign famous former dissident Natan Sharansky to broker piece between the ultra-Orthodox minority that wishes to keep women unseen and unheard from the Wall — perhaps they’re worried that if we stop oppressing women, an activity that’s one of organized religion’s traditional mainstays, it will crumble — and other Israelis who believe the archaic ban dissuades Jewish solidarity.

Feminist activists Women of the Wall regularly protest the law by holding their own prayer service once a month; this isn’t the first time they’ve been detained by the cops. The group’s leader, Anat Hoffman, described her arrest last October for Huffington Post:

As we were chanting the “Shema,” a major prayer in the service, I was approached by a police office, ordered to leave the wall plaza and taken to the nearby police station. A night of humiliation and pain followed.
I was handcuffed, strip searched, laid on the bare floor. I was not allowed to call my lawyer. I was dragged on the floor with my hands cuffed and worse of all, locked in a tiny cell with a crying young Russian woman accused of prostitution, who was the target of every filthy comment male inmates could utter. Her tears and their words are the hardest memory for me to move on from.

This time around, the police requested the women be barred from attending their group’s monthly prayer at the wall for the next three months, according to the New York Times. A magistrates’ court disagreed.

The Jewish Agency, which helps foster global Jewish interconnectivity, said in a statement that Thursday’s arrests had shown “the urgent need to reach a permanent solution and make the Western Wall once again a symbol of unity among the Jewish people, and not one of discord and strife.”

It doesn’t look like that’ll be happening anytime soon, as the police said they would appeal the ruling, which it found “unacceptable.” You guys: we’re talking about letting women wear prayer shawls, allow sound to escape out of their mouths (as opposed to moving their lips with muted voices) and read from the Torah. WOMEN EXIST and sometimes they like to say things! Get over it and onto the right side of history.


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