Court demands grounds for ban on female readers at key Jerusalem site

Jewish reform groups welcomed a ruling by Israel's highest court on Wednesday, which called for an explanation on why women are forbidden from reading the Torah at a Jerusalem holy site.

The government and ultra-Orthodox religious custodians of the Western Wall have one month to either provide "good reason" why women cannot read the Torah in their section, or to provide them with another area that has access to the Wall.

The government had approved plans last January to erect a section for mixed prayer of the sexes after negotiating with the Orthodox leaders and reform groups, though nothing has come of the decision thus far.

The court on Wednesday also ordered a halt to invasive body searches of women entering the area beyond standard security inspections to which all visitors are subjected.

Searches had been stepped up after women were caught smuggling Torahs into the female section.

Under the current status quo, women are not allowed to read the Torah at the Western Wall, considered the only standing remnant of the complex that once housed the Biblical Jewish Temple, the holiest site in Judaism.

Non-Orthodox Jews have struggled for decades for extended rights for women at the holy site. Wednesday's ruling was in response to a petition by the group Justice for Women and several other women.

The reform group Women of the Wall said the ruling showed progress.

"Today, we have come much closer toward implementation of the Western Wall agreement on gender equality and religious freedom at the Wall," it said in a statement.

Last update: Wed, 11/01/2017 - 16:05
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