Update: Women of the Wall

Women of the Wall has suffered a setback. The Jerusalem-based feminist prayer group has been fighting Israel’s religious establishment for 14 years to earn their right to pray at the Western Wall in the women’s section in any way they choose. In early April, the Israeli Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, reversed a year 2000 ruling that had recognized that right, with the exception that the group could not read from the Torah.

But the court now also unanimously voted that Robin son’s Arch, a nearby archaeological site, must be made available within one year for the group’s prayer service, which they hold every month at Rosh Hodesh. Otherwise, the court said, the group will be allowed to pray at the Wall.

This addendum to the ruling is “very hard to interpret,” said Bonna Devora Haberman, one of the group’s founders. “But it does set a time clock.” Haber man also said that it is very unlikely that the government antiquities committee would allow any alterations at the Robin son’s Arch site. In the past. Women of the Wall have been offered Robin son’s Arch as an alternative to the Wall. But they rejected the offer; although part of the ancient Temple, the ruin does not have any special religious significance.

Others see the court’s one-year stipulation as a way to delay settling once and for all an extremely volatile issue in Israel. At various times, Women of the Wall have been physically assaulted with everything from chairs to dirty diapers.

“The ruling is obviously a setback,” Haberman said. “But women’s participation in Jewish communal life will be confirmed.” Stay tuned.