Women of the Wall Win Major Victory in District Court Decision

April 25, 2013

Police Appeal Rejected, Women’s Prayer Does Not Disturb Public Order, Does Not Violate Law

Anat Hoffman, “Today Women of the Wall Liberated the Western Wall for all Jewish People.”

The Jerusalem District Court handed down its decision today in The State of Israel, Israel Police vs. Lesley Sachs, Bonnie Riva Ras, Sylvie Rozenbaum, Rabbi Valerie Stessin, and Sharona Kramer, the five women who were arrested on April 11, 2013 while praying at the Western Wall. Judge Moshe Sobel decided against the police appeal, supporting fully the Magistrates Court decision by Judge Sharon Lary-Bavly, which stated that there was no cause for arrest and that the women did not disturb the public order. The women were released with no conditions and the police’s request for a restraining order from the holy site was once again rejected in no uncertain terms.

Sobel continued to further interpret the various legal roadblocks that have been used against Women of the Wall throughout years of struggle to pray freely at the Western Wall:

The Judge declared that the Supreme Court decision of 2003 never intended to serve as an injunction which would apply criminal violations to women. Likewise this decision did not ban Women of the Wall from praying at the Kotel. He added that there is no reasonable suspicion in which the women are violating the Supreme Court decisions. In reference to the Supreme Court recommendation that the women pray in Robinson’’s Arch, Sobel declared that this does not prohibit the women from praying at the Western Wall in the women’s section, and certainly it does not imply a criminal violation for this act.

Regarding the restriction within the Law of Holy Places in which visitors at the Western Wall are to pray and hold religious celebrations according to the “local custom”, the judge declared that the women are not violating this law. He stated that the legal proceedings of Women of the Wall establish that the “local custom” is to be interpreted with National and pluralistic implications, not necessarily Orthodox Jewish customs. Thus, the accused women did not violate this law.

In reference to the accusation of endangering or disturbing the public peace, the Judge ruled that even if the women had behaved in a way that disturbed the public order, they were never a danger to the public peace. The women were in no way suspect of violent or verbal behaviors that would endanger the public.

Judge Sobell ruled that there are to be no limitations imposed on the accused women.

Adv. David Barhoum and Adv. Einat Horovitz represented Women of the Wall in Court. Barhoum said, “The fact that the District Court adopted the ruling of the Magistrates Court bears great weight, and this shows a changing legal reality which will effect any future arrests of Women of the Wall. There is no doubt that this decision is crying out and calling to the authorities to change their approach to the prayers of Women of the Wall.” Horowitz asserted, “The most important aspect of this ruling is the fact that Women of the Wall’s prayer in the women’s section of the Western Wall does not violate the “local custom” and therefore does not imply a reasonable doubt of violation of the Law of Holy Places The court has rejected any reasonable cause for a policy of repeated detainment and arrests of Women of the Wall by police.”

Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall Chair said, “Today Women of the Wall Liberated the Western Wall for all Jewish People. We did it for the eight year old girl who can now dream of having her Bat Mitzvah at the Wall, and for the grandmother who cannot climb on a chair in order to see her son’s Bar Mitzvah. We did it for the great diversity of Jews in the world, all of whom deserve to pray according to their belief and custom at the Western Wall.”

For nearly twenty-five years Women of the Wall has continued to fight for religious freedom and women’s rights at the Western Wall. As Women of the Wall, our central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.

Press Contact: Shira PruceDirector of Public Relations +972 (0)546898351 media@womenofthewall.org.il

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