Israeli Court Rules for Nashot HaKotel

YERUSHALAYIM -

In a precedent-setting ruling likely to send shock waves through the religious community, Yerushalayim District Court Judge Moshe Sobel ruled yesterday that the self-named Nashot HaKotel are to be allowed to don talleisim and read from the Torah at the Kosel.

While the Hebrew word for women is nashim, this group of women who regularly stage what regular mispallelim and many others perceive as provocations at the Kosel have decided that the word sounds too masculine, and have chosen the made-up word nashot instead.

Until this latest court decision, the police relied on a High Court ruling that determined there was a prohibition against “conducting a religious ceremony that is not in accordance with the custom of that place, which violates the sensitivities of the worshippers,” with the understanding that women wearing talleisim at the Kosel offend the sensitivities of those who daven there.

However, Justice Sobol ruled that the “custom of the place” at the Kosel is not necessarily the Orthodox custom — though this has been the case ever since the Kosel was reclaimed in the 1967 Six-Day-War. While it is thought that a clear majority of those who visit the Kosel are chareidi, religious or traditional, the judge decided that the “local custom” is actually “pluralistic-secular-nationalistic.”

In light of this precedent-setting ruling, he also ordered police to lift restrictions on several women who they wanted to distance from the site for a set period of time. He made it clear that they should not be prevented — and certainly not arrested  — for purposely donning talleisim at the site and reading from the Torah.

The Reform and Conservative movements, who are closely aligned with this group, welcomed the ruling.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the Rav of the Kosel, said in response to the ruling that he will appeal to the Attorney General and the State Prosecutor to evaluate the ramifications of this ruling, especially vis-à-vis the previous ruling of the Israel High Court.

Rabbi Rabinowitz called on all sides to act responsibility. “The Kosel is the last place of unity that we have left. It’s easy to ignite the Kosel Plaza with the fire of discord. It’s much harder to find the middle ground that will enable everyone to continue to feel wanted and a sense of belonging at the Kosel. I am pleading with the state authorities, and the silent majority to whom the Kosel is close to their hearts, to prevent all the sides from turning the Kosel Plaza into a site of discord between brothers.”