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Women of the Wall are free to pray as they wish — for now

Last night, Women of the Wall sent out a press release declaring “a shameful day for the Israeli judicial system.” The target of their ire was Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who “released a statement today in which he rejects the 24.4.13 District Court decision supporting Women of the Wall’s right to freedom of religion at the Western Wall.”

Only problem is, Weinstein’s statement doesn’t say that at all. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

Weinstein’s statement, after summarizing the court decision which said that Women of the Wall do not violate “local custom” by praying at the Wall, said two things:

  1. He will not appeal the decision to Israel’s Supreme Court.
  2. Naftali Bennett, the religious services minister, will propose new amendments to the law in question which could redefine “local custom.”

In case there was any ambiguity, Weinstein’s spokesperson said today that by not appealing the ruling to the Supreme Court, Weinstein accepts it. For now, members of Women of the Wall can pray as they wish in the women’s section of the Wall.

Weinstein’s first point is good news for Women of the Wall, but the second could be quite bad.

Women of the Wall Chairwoman Anat Hoffman told JTA that in a meeting on Tuesday, Bennett told her he could make the group’s practices — including reading from the Torah, singing out loud and wearing prayer shawls — illegal. He plans to formulate the amendments within a month.

Hoffman said the meeting was positive and that Bennett is open to dialogue. As a gesture of goodwill, Women of the Wall will not read from the Torah at its upcoming service on Friday — which the group had been planning to do.

“We felt a feeling that he was listening to us,” she told JTA. “He heard there was a lot of interest and concern about us among world Jewry. He wants to know that it’s possible to work with us.”

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