Press Release 17 Sept. 2017 Recent opinion poll: Most Israelis in favor of WOW’s rights to read from Torah, pray out loud

62% of those who identified as religious and 30% of ultra-Orthodox support allotting an egalitarian prayer plaza at the Wall

More than a quarter-27%- of those who identify as religious think women should be allowed to pray out loud

53% support women reading from Torah

67% think a woman should be permitted to pray out loud and sing during services

76% think that according to Judaism, women have the right to light and bless over Hanukah candles

83% have heard about Women of the Wall

An opinion poll, published in preparation for the High Holidays, shows that most of the Israeli public supports Women of the Wall and their right to read from Torah, pray out loud, and sing during prayer services. Roughly two-thirds of the religious and a third of the ultra-Orthodox support allotting a separate egalitarian prayer plaza at the Wall.

The poll, conducted by Mina Zemach and Mano Geva at Midgam, aimed to ascertain Israeli opinions and positions concerning various issues relating to Women of the Wall. Among the questions asked were:

1. Percentage of public awareness of Women of the Wall.
2. Opinions regarding holding prayer according to WOW customs.
3. Opinions regarding egalitarian prayer plaza.
4. Public opinion regarding opposition to Women of the Wall.
5. Level of support of Women of the Wall.
6. Opinions regarding women lighting Hanukah candles.
7. Visits to the Wall.
8. Self-definition according to religious denomination.

The poll was conducted among 529 people, a sampling of adult Jewish population in Israel. Data was collected by internet interviews conducted at the end of August 2017. Maximum statistical error is 4.3%.

53% of the Israeli public supports Torah reading by women

The poll suggest that 83% of the public has heard of Women of the Wall, and more importantly, most interviewees support Women of the Wall’s positions regarding gender equality in prayer.

More than 53% support women reading from Torah, as opposed to only 37% who object.
Approximately 67% believe that women should be permitted to pray out loud and to sing during prayer, as opposed to 24% who object.
More than a quarter- 27%- of those who identify as religious believe that women should be able to pray out loud.
More than 76% believe women have a right to bless and light Hanukah candles.

62% of the Israeli public supports an egalitarian prayer plaza

As a result of the above positions, 62% of Israelis support an egalitarian prayer plaza at the Wall to ensure gender equality. Only 28% object to it.

A staggering 62% of the religious and 30% of the ultra-Orthodox support the egalitarian plaza.

Women of the Wall’s main objective: Promoting gender equality at the Wall

Promoting gender equality in prayer is perceived as the main motive for Women of the Wall (62% of the public who believe this is an objective, 40% believe it is the main objective, including 24% of the religious.)

Other objectives, according to the poll, include: the belief that WOW’s conduct is according to Jewish law (44% believe that this one of the objectives while 29% believe it is the main objective).

Only 31% thought that WOW’s objective is a provocation against the religious institutions, and only 11% believe that jealousy of men is the objective.

55% of Israelis support Women of the Wall, and 39% are willing to support WOW publicly

An impressive 55% support Women of the Wall (25% greatly support and 30% support). 39% are willing to express their support publicly.

60% of the Israeli public perceive the ultra-Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox politicians to be the main objectors to Women of the Wall

The poll also revealed that the Israeli public believes that the main objectors to WOW are the ultra-Orthodox public in general (39%), and particularly the ultra-Orthodox political parties (21%). It is surprising that only 5% of the public views The Wall Rabbi as an objector to Women of the Wall.

That said, it’s important to note that the Wall Rabbi was a party to the negotiations which led to the Kotel Agreement, and in doing so, supported a non-Orthodox egalitarian prayer plaza.

70% of visitors to the Western Wall arrive as part of a trip to put in a note or for a special occasion. Only 16% of visitors are worshipers who come regularly for prayer.

The poll checked the frequency of visits to the Wall: 99% of interviewees have been to the Wall, 68% of them within the last two years, and 37% within the last year. Among the reasons for the visits: 50% visit as part of a trip or with guests from abroad, roughly 16% visit in order to pray and 8% in order to place a note. 20% visit the Wall to celebrate a special occasion (12% Bar Mitzvah and 8% a swearing-in ceremony).

68% of visitors stated they felt “at home” at the Wall, while 25% stated they felt unwelcomed on their last visit to the Kotel.

68% of Israelis do not identify themselves as Orthodox

The poll found that more than half the interviewees (54%) don’t ascribe to a specific Jewish denomination. Amongst those who do identify themselves with a specific denomination, 31% are Orthodox, 14% are Conservative (7%) and Reform (7%).

Legal Bacground:

“Why don’t you go back to the Kotel Agreement?” was the question with which the Supreme Court hearing ended on August 31, 17. The hearing which dealt with the petitions by Women of the Wall, the Reform and Conservative Movement, and other organizations and their request to arrange prayer services for those who wish to pray in a non-Orthodox fashion. Women of the Wall requests the Supreme Court to compel the State to implement the Kotel Agreement or to allot them a new prayer area within the main plaza, alongside the men and women’s sections, where they’d be able to pray according to their custom freely and without interruptions.

Chief Justice Naor and Justices Danziger and Meltzer presided. Chief Justice Naorrequested the State to explain why it would not implement the Agreement, which was, according to Naor: “an acceptable, agreed upon, respectful and appropriate solution.”

The Justices made clear they found the State’s current position lacking. Justice Danziger stated the minor changes that the cabinet declared it would take at the egalitarian plaza are in no way a solution to the issue. Justice Meltzer required that if the State decides not to return to the Kotel Agreement, it should convey to the Court the reasons why it can’t be compelled to do so by the Court.

In the arguments submitted to the Court, Women of the Wall demand a solution which is based on the main issues of the original Kotel Agreement, reached by the team headed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, which was approved by the Israeli Cabinet on January 31, 2016. In June 2017, the Cabinet voted to renege the agreement.

Main Original Kotel Agreement Issues:

1. Building a respectable and accessible prayer plaza, which would be, legally and physically, an integral part of the Western Wall.
2. There would be an independent governing body, separate from the Western Wall Heritage Foundation (which is dominated by ultra-Orthodox men), composed of representatives of Women of the Wall, Conservative and Reform movements, Jewish Agency and government officials.
3. The State would allot a proper budget for building and maintain the new plaza.


About Women of the Wall:

WOW is a group of religious women from all denominations (Orthodox, Conservative and Reform) who pray at the Western Wall every “Rosh Hodesh” (beginning of the month) and have been fighting for 28 years for equal rights for women in praying at the Western Wall. The group wishes to pray according to Jewish Law (Halacha), in a group and out loud; to read from a Torah scroll; and to put on tefillin and tallit, at the section known as the Women’s Section of the Western Wall.

Following a 3-year-negotiation, the Kotel Agreement was approved in government on January 31, 2016, by a 15 to 5 majority. The agreement stated that a third section be established, designated for Women of the Wall and pluralistic movements’ prayers. The agreement was voided by a cabinet vote on June 25th, 2017. The Supreme Court hearing of WOW petition is scheduled for August 31, 2017.

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