Women of the Wall Get Okay From Israel Police for Kotel Prayer

Jerusalem District Police spokesperson tells Haaretz the women 'will be escorted by police forces on their way to the Kotel' in accordance with a court ruling several months ago.

Women of the Wall and their supporters will be allowed to pray at the women’s section of the Kotel this month and will not be relegated to an area away from the wall, as they were last month, according to police.

In response to a question from Haaretz, a Jerusalem District Police spokesperson said: “The worshippers will be escorted by police forces on their way to the Kotel and will be brought into the women’s section with police escorts, in order to allow them to pray as the court ruled.”

The Jerusalem District Court ruled several months ago that contrary to police interpretations of the law, Women of the Wall are not in violation of “local custom” when they wear prayer shawls and put on tefillin at the Kotel. The ruling was considered a major victory for supporters of the women’s organization, who have been waging a battle to pray as they see fit at the holy site.

Citing security precautions, police last month set up barricades to prevent Women of the Wall and their supporters from approaching the women’s section, keeping them enclosed in an area typically used for parking near the public restrooms.

Several leaders of the ultra-Orthodox community had instructed young seminary women to show up in force at the Kotel before Women of the Wall arrived last month. By the time Women of the Wall arrived at 7 A.M., the usual hour that they convene, the women’s section was filled almost to capacity with thousands of young ultra-Orthodox women.

On Wednesday, Women of the Wall will hold their monthly morning prayer service to mark the beginning of the Jewish month of Elul. A group of organization activists plans to hold a vigil at the entrance to the Kotel, near Dung Gate, to protest the ongoing refusal of the Orthodox authorities to allow them to read from the Torah scroll in the women’s section. Those participating in the vigil will hold up a Torah scroll in order to draw attention to their cause, said Lesley Sachs, the executive director of the women’s organization.

“We find ourselves in a ‘Catch-22’ situation,” said Sachs, noting that an ordinance issued several years ago prohibits worshippers from bringing their own Torah scrolls into the Kotel, requiring them to make use of any of the 100 scrolls already available at the site. But these Torah scrolls are not available to women, and repeated requests by Women of the Wall to be given permission to use them have been denied.

Michal Fattal