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Israeli Supreme Court Rejects Women of the Wall

On January 26, 1994, the Israeli Supreme Court turned down the petition of the women, who sought to pray aloud at the Western Wall. The petition was filed in 1989, by a group of mostly Orthodox women who had begun to pray together each Rosh Chodesh in the women’s section at the Wall.

The women sang aloud, wore prayer shawls and read from the Torah, in the same fashion as the men on the other side of the low partition. They were harassed by fervently Orthodox groups, who claimed the women were violating Jewish law. The hostility culminated in a violent attack on the women in March 1989, when police were called to disperse the crowds with tear gas. The group continued to pray each month but was subject to a court order barring them from praying with a Torah and prayer shawls.

Despite the petition’s rejection, the Women of the Wall claimed a partial victory. They pointed to the court’s call for a government committee to investigate the matter and to find a way to balance the needs of all the worshippers at the Wall.

Miriam Isserow, the attorney for the Israel Women’s Network, however, called the decision “very disappointing” and charged that it bowed to the demands of the ultra-Orthodox.

Rabbi Simha Meron, a lawyer and former director of Israel’s rabbinical courts helped represent the Orthodox position in the case. He expressed confidence that the government committee would “find ways around” the women’s claim that they have a right to pray the same way men do, which he said is “not according to halacha [traditional Jewish law].”