Group Banned From Praying at Western Wall

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Posted by Jeff from ( on Monday, April 07, 2003 at 1:07AM :

Group Banned From Praying at Western Wall
2 hours, 55 minutes ago

By GAVIN RABINOWITZ, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM - The Israeli Supreme Court on Sunday barred a Jewish women's group from worshipping at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, but ruled that the government had to name an alternative prayer site within a year.

The women had provoked the ire of the ultra-Orthodox religious establishment by wearing prayer shawls and reading from the Torah, the Jewish holy book, while praying at the Wall.

Women are allowed to pray at the Wall in a section separate from that of the men, but ultra-Orthodox tradition holds reading from the Torah as a male preserve.

Calling the 5-4 verdict "not very brave," the leader of the Women of the Wall group, Anat Hoffman, said the judges effectively classified women as second-class citizens.

The court accepted the government's position that allowing the group to pray at the site constituted a danger to public safety.

In the past, attempts by the women to worship at the Wall, while wearing prayer shawls and reading from the Torah, have provoked anger and violence from the ultra-Orthodox community.

But the expanded nine-judge panel said the government has a year to provide an alternative place for worship at a nearby site called Robinson's Arch or the court will allow the women to return.

Sunday's ruling reversed an earlier high court that supported the women.

Rabbi Andrew Sacks, director of the Conservative Jewish movement's Rabbinical Assembly, said in a statement, that "those who support pluralism should be saddened by this decision."

He said the movement does not insist on its right to pray at the main section of the wall "in the interest of peace."

The Western Wall is a retaining wall of the Second Temple compound, destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., part of the disputed hilltop that Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims call Haram al-Sharif, the third holiest site in Islam.

-- Jeff
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