Saturday, August 15, 2020

(Andrew Friedman/TPS) The High Court of Justice has given the state 30 days to explain why women are not being allowed to pray freely at or near the Western Wall.

Attempts by non-Orthodox Jewish groups to read the Torah, to wear Jewish prayer shawls and to hold mixed-gender prayers at the holy site has caused friction, and occasional violence, with ultra-Orthodox visitors to the site for years.

Last February, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the cabinet approved the establishment of an egalitarian prayer section, also adjacent to the Western Wall to the south of the current plaza, outside the jurisdiction of the Orthodox-dominated Israeli chief rabbinate. But following an uproar from the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism and Shas parties, both members of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, the prime minister balked and the alternative prayer space was shelved.

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Since then, freedom of religion and non-Orthodox groups have asked the court repeatedly to force the government to establish the alternate prayer space, against the wishes of the rabbinate and ultra-Orthodox parties.

Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Movement for Progressive Judaism, said the ruling “sends a clear message” from the court that discrimination against non-Orthodox Jews at the Western Wall is unacceptable and must stop.

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