Jerusalem Court to Hear Appeal on Female Prayer at Western Wall

After losing in a lower court, the police will ask the Jerusalem District Court to rule that five women who were arrested for praying at the Western Wall were disturbing the peace.

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The Jerusalem District Court will be asked to rule Wednesday morning on whether women wearing praying shawls and praying out loud at the Western Wall constitute a provocation.

The court will hear an appeal by the Israel Police against a ruling handed down earlier this month by Jerusalem Magistrate Court Judge Sharon Larry-Bavly. In the ruling, Larry-Bavly rejected their request to issue an injunction preventing five women – all activists in the Women of the Wall organization – from praying at the Western Wall for three months, after they were detained for wearing prayer shawls.

The police argued in their request that the women’s actions caused “a disturbance of the peace at the Western Wall, as well as incitement.”

Larry-Bavly ordered the five women released with no restrictions, noting that Women of the Wall had not initiated any provocation. “The disturbance of the peace that has occurred at the Western Wall, to the extent that it took place, was not a disturbance of the peace on the part of the respondents,” she ruled.

The police decided to appeal her ruling. In the notice of appeal, Superintendent Yuval Zizi, an officer in the investigations and intelligence division, wrote that Larry-Bavly erred when she ruled that the Women of the Wall did not initiate the provocation. “The very fact that the respondents arrived wrapped in prayer shawls, breaking the law and violating the ruling by the High Court of Justice constitutes provocation in a sensitive place such as the wall,” he wrote.

He was referring to the High Court ruling that says that Women of the Wall should pray in the southern area of the wall known as Robinson’s Arch.

In the notice of appeal, police said the injunction order they were requesting would only apply to prayer at the main prayer area, so that the five women would be allowed to pray over the next three months at Robinson’s Arch.

In a statement, the women’s organization said today: “Women of the Wall remains opposed to the exile of women’s prayer to Robinson’s Arch. The law must be changed so that women will be allowed to pray out loud with tallitot, tefillin and Torah at the Kotel.”

The women detained on April 11 at the Rosh Chodesh prayer service were Leslie Sachs, director of Women of the Wall; Bonny Ras, assistant director of communications for the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; Silvie Rosenbaum; Sharona Kramer, and Rabbi Valery Stessi, who was the first Conservative rabbi to be ordained in Israel and is the head of the Maayanot congregation in Jerusalem.

The hearing will be held at 9 A.M., and Women of the Wall is being represented by attorney David Barhoum.

A Women of the Wall member being detained by police in the Old City of Jerusalem, April 11, 2013.Credit: Michal Fattal

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