Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sided with the ultra-Orthodox community against allowing a feminist prayer group to hold rites at the Western Wall compound, Army Radio reported on Tuesday.
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For years, the Women of the Wall group has been demanding the right to read from a Torah scroll in the women’s section. The Orthodox authorities in charge of prayer regulations at the Jewish holy site have refused to oblige them on the grounds that women reading from a Torah scroll violates “local custom.”
The High Court of Justice demanded the state answer several appeals filed by Women of the Wall and other groups to allow freedom of worship at the holy site. According to Army Radio, Netanyahu met with the heads of the ultra-Orthodox parties this week, and agreed to back their position. Netanyahu's decision means that the state will answer the High Court by backing the ultra-Orthodox proposal of erecting a separate area for Women of the Wall while maintaining the status quo, Army Radio reported.
The Prime Minister's Office said Netanyahu supports the status quo and respects all Jewish denominations.
Women of the Wall CEO Anat Hoffman accused Netanyahu of duplicity. "At the Jewish Federations conference he promised equality for all, but behind closed doors he promises not to make any changes to the status quo," she told Army Radio, and vowed that women will continue to bring a torah scroll to the site, "even if we have to sneak it in."