State Attorney General Yehudah Weinstein has decided not to appeal a highly controversial court ruling allowing a group of women who call themselves nashot hakotel to don talleisos and read from a sefer Torah at the Kosel. Weinstein said that by next month the Religious Affairs Ministry should publicize clear regulations on the issue.
On Rosh Chodesh Iyar, some of the women were arrested after they donned talleisos during their monthly visit to the Kosel. They were later released and restraining orders were issued banning them from coming to the holy site. A Jerusalem District Court judge later ruled that the police had no right to issue such an order.
He insisted that a previous High Court ruling that people who visit the site must follow the “minhag hamakom,” the custom of the place, did not preclude the women’s behavior because the “custom of the place” at the Kosel is not Orthodox, but rather “pluralistic-secularist.” This is despite the fact that there is a mechitzah at the Kosel and an overwhelming majority of the worshippers are religious Jews.
The state was considering appealing this ruling ahead of the women’s plans for Rosh Chodesh Sivan this Friday. At a meeting Monday between Weinstein and Kosel Rav Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, deputy minister for Religious Affairs Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan and the official minister responsible for Religious Affairs, Naftali Bennett, a decision was reached whereby they decided not to appeal the decision for this month. This will effectively allow the women to do as they please on Friday without fear of legal retribution. However, ahead of next Rosh Chodesh, the Religious Affairs Ministry will draft specific regulations on the subject.
The representative of the Reform group said she was “disappointed” by the decision because they had presumed they would be able to come there whenever they wanted unrestricted. However, secular and female MKs who have supported the group expressed satisfaction at the move, as they are convinced that the decisions that this government will make will be favorable to them.
Rabbi Rabinowitz called for an immediate draft of the new regulations and stressed that they are important “in order for the Kosel to remain as it was, a holy site that unifies everyone, and not a place of discord and strife. Rosh Chodesh Sivan is the time that Am Yisrael came to Har Sinai 3,500 years ago, with one heart, to accept the Torah, and therefore it is incumbent on every Jew specifically on this day to behave with unity and not to offend others.
“I am calling on everyone to respect the Kosel, to conceal the divisive customs and to continue the customs of the site as they were established decades ago, and thus to focus on the common ground that unites us and not to come to its gates to demonstrate one against the other.”