Women hold Western Wall prayer service with Torah scroll


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Tefilat Nashim B’Kotel-Women’s Prayer at the Wall group held a prayer service in the women’s section of the Western Wall that included a Torah scroll.

It was the first time that women have succeeded in bringing in and reading from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall since an interim Supreme Court ruling said they had that right. A petition to the high court challenged a 2010 directive issued by Western Wall administrator Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz barring women from bringing to and using a Torah scroll on the women’s side.

Tefilat Nashim B’Kotel-Women’s Prayer at the Wall said in a statement Monday that security officials at the Western Wall searched several of the women who tried to enter the Western Wall plaza and refused to allow them to bring in a Torah scroll. A second scroll was brought in clandestinely, according to the statement, allowing the women to read the Monday morning Torah portion.

The service was “dignified and joyous,” according to the statement, though several haredi Orthodox women blew loud whistles to disrupt it.

On Jan. 11, the court gave the wall’s Orthodox administrators and state agencies 30 days to show cause why women cannot pray “in accordance with their custom” or allow them to pray as they choose. The injunction also declared that women should not be subjected to body searches before entering the plaza.

The main petitioner in the lawsuit was Tefilat Nashim B’Kotel-Women’s Prayer at the Wall, a break-off of the Women of the Wall group that wants to pray in the women’s section and reject a compromise, still to be implemented, that would expand an alternative prayer space at Robinson’s Arch.

Currently the Western Wall administration attempts to bar women from reading from the Torah and denies women access to the dozens of Torah scrolls kept at the holy site exclusively for men’s use. Court rulings in 2003 and 2013 state that Jewish women are entitled to the same religious options that Jewish men have at the site.

The Women of the Wall group has brought hidden Torah scrolls into the women’s sections several times for its monthly prayer service in honor of the new month. The group has held several bat mitzvahs with the Torah scrolls, as well as bat mitzvah services without Torah scrolls when the women have been caught.

On Thursday, Women of the Wall held a morning service at the security checkpoint at the entrance to the Western Wall plaza rather than open their coats for a search.

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