January 11, 2013
Women of the Wall and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) Petitioned the Supreme Court along Kolech- Religious Women’s Forum, the Center For Women’s Justice, the Yaacov Herzog Center, Hiddush and the Masorti Movement.
The petition, presented to the court on January 6, 2013 by IRAC, calls into question the legality and legitimacy of the authorities presiding over the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Specifically, Women of the Wall and partners are asking the court to examine the extreme lack of equal representation of Jewish streams and women in the bodies and offices which serve as authorities of the holy site. Inquiry into the Western Wall Heritage Foundation leadership includes a look at their questionable organization and financial status as well as a critique of their 15-person board, comprised solely of ultra-Orthodox men. Likewise, the court is requested to examine the double-duty of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, who holds two titles: Rabbi in charge of Holy Sites, appointed by the Prime Minister’s Office, and Chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. These positions intersect and overlap in ways that create potential for conflict of interests or worse, the possibility of dictatorial rule over the Western Wall, a site which Jews and non-Jews flock to from all over the world, as a spiritual and historical journey and of course for prayer.
In addition to this petition, Women of the Wall continue to pray and work for the full equality and access to religious freedom at the Western Wall, including freedom to pray in peace, as a group, out loud, with Tallit (prayer shall), Tefilin (phylacteries), and Torah. We welcome all of the current initiatives, which aim to find a compromise that would make this possible. This petition is a part of that work to establish equal rights and representation for women in the holy sites, as explained by Anat Hoffman, “Dismantling the Western Wall Heritage Foundation is the first step to changing the make-up of the rabbinical assembly and rabbinic courts. We need women to have full religious freedoms and be represented on all of these levels of Jewish authority in Israel.”