The legal battle

The first petition was filed in March 1989, the day after Ta’anit Esther (the fast before Purim), after a group of ultra-Orthodox men and women had harassed their prayer group. The petition was filed against the Rabbi who is in charge of the Wall, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Chief Rabbis of Israel, and the police, in order to enable WOW to exercise their right to pray freely at the Western Wall.

In May, the High Court of Justice debated the petition of the Women of the Wall. The court has given the state six months to submit its response to the petition, but for the time being, an order forbids women to pray at the Western Wall with a Torah scroll and wearing a prayer shawl.


In June 1990, a group of women from the International Committee for Women of the Wall first filed a petition (2410/90) against the Minister of Religious Affairs, the Western Wall Commissioner, the Inspector General of the Israel Police, and the Attorney General for their refusal to allow them to pray at the Western Wall . In the same order, they asked “to allow the petitioners to bring in a Torah scroll into the Western Wall plaza and to ensure such prayer by the petitioners without interference and harm.”


Their petition was joined with Women of the Wall’s petition. The Supreme Court discussed both petitions and in 1994 gave its first judgment. In the verdict, the gaps between the judges appears in accordance with their respective world views. Menahem Alon (the religious one) presented the prayer of Women of the Wall as an ideological struggle, arguing that “the place of worship near the Western Wall is not a place for a war over different acts and opinions. The regulation enacted by the Minister of Religious Affairs, which prohibits prayer that is not according to the local custom, is reasonable in its expression of the principle of maintaining the status quo”

On the other hand, Justice Shlomo Levin (secular) wrote: “The nature of a custom changes according to the changes of time, and in its definition, a pluralistic and tolerant approach must be expressed to the opinions and customs of others.”


The court rejected the petition but ruled that the government must determine Within six months the appropriate arrangements and conditions, in which the petitioners could “exercise their right to pray according to their tradition at the Western Wall plaza, while moderating the injury to the feelings of other worshipers.” Although the ruling was inclined in favor Women of the Wall, the Supreme Court also gave priority to the value of hurting the Orthodox worshipers’ feelings over the value of the right to equality of women of the Wall. The expectation was that the government would find the appropriate balance.


About a year after this ruling, in May 1995, when the government refrained from implementing the court’s decision, Women of the Wall petitioned the court again, this time to hold the government accountable to implementing its ruling. In the renewed hearing, the court asked to appoint a government committee to resolve the issue and to balance the two conflicting values: freedom of worship and possible harm to the public’s feelings. The government appointed the committee of directors-general, then the Ne’eman committee, and finally the ministerial committee on Jerusalem, which ruled that Women of the Western Wall would be able to pray according to their tradition at Robinson’s Arch, but not at the Women’s Section at the Wall. The condition for them to move to Robinson’s Arch was only relevant beginning upon complete reonvation of the space; until then, they were permitted to continue to pray in the women’s section of the Western Wall.


Since the parties did not reach an agreement, and since Robinson Arch was not renovated according to the timeline indicated in the agreement, the Supreme Court was forced to rule on the petition. In this ruling decision  (the second ruling) in May 2000, the court decided to issue a decisive order instructing the government “to determine the appropriate arrangements and conditions under which the petitioners will be able to exercise their right to pray freely at the Western Wall plaza.” (HCJ 4128.00)

In April 2003, the Supreme Court overturned its previous ruling in 2000, and a majority of five justices decided to adopt the state’s proposal that Robinson Arch should be used by Women of the Wall, but the government must turn it into a more respectable plaza.

On January 6, 2013, eight organizations, including Women of the Wall, petitioned the Supreme Court against the Prime Minister and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, demanding the expropriation of control of the Western Wall by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, who is responsible for the Western Wall. Including secular, Reform and women. The petition claims that Rabbi Rabinowitz is indeed defined as the ‘Custodian of the Wall’ and appoints him by a government minister, but he does not see the realization of the interests of all the streams in Judaism, but only the Orthodox interest. It was also argued that “the regulations of the holy places are problematic  Because the state gave the Custodian of the Wall the power and authority to decide and define as he sees fit the custom of the place. “


On March 11, 2013, a discussion was held with the Deputy Attorney General, Ms. Sarit Dana. At the hearing it was agreed that Robinson’s Arch was prepared according to the High Court of Justice ruling and that it could be seen as an alternative to the Western Wall plaza for Women of the Wall worshipers according to their custom, It was also noted that the more the Women of the Wall seek to bring about a change in the arrangement that has been set, the more possible it may be to appeal to the competent authorities.



On April 11, 2013, five women were arrested for wearing a Tallit and disrupting public order. They were brought before the Magistrate’s Court judge, Sharon Larry Bavli, who did not see any reason for the arrest and released them.

On the 24th of that month, the Government of Israel appealed the decision and the women were brought before District Court Judge Moshe Sobel. Sobel rejected the state’s request, stating that there is no legal provision forbidding Women of the Wall to wrap themselves in prayer shawls and to pray as they do, and states that the custom of the place at the Western Wall is pluralistic.

As a result, four days after the ruling of Justice Sobel, the legal advisor to the police sent a letter to the Attorney General asking for an urgent hearing in order to establish a clear policy on the subject. The hearing took place in May, in which the attorney general decided not to instruct the police to prevent Women of the Wall from praying in the upper plaza near the women’s section.


June 2003: Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino sent a letter to the Attorney General requesting the Attorney General to set up a hearing to examine the issue and give instructions to the police. Three days later, following a request by the police commissioner, a discussion was held with the attorney general, in which the attorney general reiterated his statement that the police would not prevent Women of the Wall from praying according to their customs. On Rosh Chodesh Tammuz 2013, after learning the lessons of the police from Rosh Chodesh Sivan, a compound was built under the bridge leading to the Temple Mount and the women of the Western Wall were brought in.


On 29 November 2013, a petition was submitted to the High Court of Justice by two women who wanted to instruct the Rabbi of the Western Wall to allow them to use the Torah scrolls that are available for men only and to cancel the procedure of “bringing Torah scrolls into the Western Wall Plaza” (Prof. Magnus et al. V. Rabbi Rabinowitz, et al.). At the same time, the same women filed a damages claim to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court under the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services and Entrance to Entertainment and Public Places Law, 5761-2000, in violation of their right to bring Torah scrolls to the women’s section (Tel Aviv 62763-11-15 Magnus et al. V. Rabbi Rabinowitz, et al.).


In September 2016, eight months after the Israeli government announced the freezing of the Kotel agreement, a petition was filed by Women of the Wall, the Masorti (Conservative) Movement and the Reform Movement for the inequality of women’s representation and non-Orthodox streams in the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. In response, the High Court of Justice rebukes the government for not implementing the Kotel compromise and asks Justice Naor: “Should we remove the chestnuts from the fire?” The High Court of Justice recommended that the petitioners submit a new petition.
On Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 2016, physical searches were conducted on Women of the Wall in order to examine whether they carried a Torah scroll on their bodies. Against this conduct of the Western Wall rabbi, a petition was filed on 11.1.2017. The High Court of Justice ruled that: (1) It is forbidden to conduct a physical search of the women of the Western Wall (2) The plaza in its present form does not constitute an alternative to the prayer of the women of the Wall.

Following the cancellation of the Kotel agreement, the judges of the High Court of Justice met on January 14, 2018, in a special panel of seven justices to hear all the parties involved in the matter. The judges demanded from the state an answer to what they had done against the disturbances of Rosh Chodesh Shevat (the month following the discussion) and to understand what renovations they were planning on Robinson’s request.

On Rosh Chodesh Sivan , May 15, 2018, Women of the Wall refused to enter the fenced area that had been specially prepared for them and asked to pray like every other woman at the Women’s Section. During the recitation of the Shema, Eden Shimon, who is in charge of security on behalf of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, informed Anat Hoffman (Chairwoman), Lesley Sachs (Executive Director), Tammy Gottlieb (vice chairwoman) and Yochi Rappeport-Zierler (the cantor that morning), Rachel Cohen- Yeshurun ​​and Irena Lutt, That because they prayed outside of the corral , they would receive a restraining order from the Kotel.

On the Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, June 14, 2018, the group refused once again to pray in the corral and at the exit from the Western Wall, Anat Hoffman was warned she will receive a Restraining order.

On June 28, 2018 minister of culture and sport, Miri Regev announced that due to her “conscience,” she can not sit on a committee that deals with renovating Robinson Arch for Women of the Wall and the pluralistic movements. Shortly after she resigned Minister Ayelet Shaked (department of Justice) announced she is leaving that commitee as well and Minister Yuval Steinitz volunteered to stand as head of the committee.
However, MK Bezalel Samotritz submitted a request for an interim order prohibiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from transferring the authority from the committee to the holy sites headed by Miri Regev and Ayelet Shaked, Supreme Court ordered the state to respond by July 15 why did prime minister Netanyahu transfer the powers.

In December 2018, the Jerusalem Municipality was supposed to discuss the renovation of Robinson Arch, but refused and the discussion was transferred to the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee. The District Committee rejected the request to renew the building permit of the Pluralistic Plaza (Robinson’s Arch), and now it will be necessary to apply for a new permit. “We need to bring about a solution and it is separating the plazas” said the deputy prime minister. The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee said in response that “the committee decided that it was not possible to renew the permit, since the committee was informed before the hearing that the building permit was not implemented at all”.

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