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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776
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Police Appeal WOW Decision, Calling Women’s Prayer a Disturbance

Judge Larry-Bavly's decision was in open defiance of the high court's ruling.
Judge Sharon Larry-Bavly

Judge Sharon Larry-Bavly

On Wednesday, April 24, the Women of the Wall group will be hauled back into court, for police to appeal the recent Magistrates Court decision regarding the arrest of 5 women at the Western Wall, states a WOW email received by The Jewish Press.

The women were arrested on April 11, at their Rosh Hodesh prayer service, and were accused of disturbing the public order by wearing prayer shawls (tallitot) and praying out loud.

In the appeal, police insist that the women were provoking disorder, contradiction the unprecedented decision by Judge Sharon Larry-Bavly in which she stated that she found “that there is no basis for the arrest” and that “it was not Women of the Wall who initiated the provocation.”

Judge Larry-Bavly then ordered the women to be released immediately and unconditionally. But Israeli police is requesting the court to issue a restraining order for the next three months’ Rosh Hodesh prayers at the Kotel, or, alternatively, to limit the women’s presence to Robinson’s Arch for the entire prayer service.

The email statement continued: “The threat of a restraining order from the Western Wall (Kotel) is not new to the group, but the threat of exile to Robinsons’s Arch is. It is a reminder that until a permanent solution has been created providing free prayer for women at the Kotel, Rabbi Rabinowitz, Chair of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and appointed authority over the Kotel, would have police arrest and banish women from the Kotel.”

The Women of the Wall are opposed to the “exile of women’s prayer to Robinson’s Arch.” They argue that “the law must be changed so that women will be allowed to pray out loud with tallitot, tefillin and Torah at the Kotel.”

Women of the Wall Chair Anat Hoffman said: “Women’s prayer is not a disturbance of the peace, quite the opposite. Women’s prayer promotes peace, unity, community and spirit for the Jewish people. How could it be a criminal, punishable offense?”

The Women of the Wall maintain that since it has been ruled that there is no concern for the public order and there was no cause for arrest, there are also no grounds for a restraining order.

Lesley Sachs, Director of Women of the Wall, added: “The arrests of women for praying is a problem that the Knesset must confront immediately and they must create legislation to prevent this in the future.”

This reporter’s opinion is that the police are right in seeking to reverse Judge Larry-Bavly’s ruling, which contradicts and, basically, ignores the Supreme Court decision on this very issue. On April 6, 2003, the court upheld the Israeli government’s ban on women reading from the Torah or wearing tallit or tefillin at the main public area at the Wall.

The high court explicitly agreed that continued women’s prayer WOW style represented a threat to public safety and order. How can a lower court judge say it ain’t so? The sooner the case is appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court, the better.

And then, of course, we’ll discover that somebody had taken the justices a side and whispered something in their ears and they’ll go ahead and reverse themselves…

Yori Yanover

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.

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