Legal action against Women of the Wall unlikely

A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office declined to say whether or not legal measures were being considered.

Women of the wall. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Women of the wall.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Legal action against the Women of the Wall for conducting a female priestly blessing ceremony on Monday at the Western Wall appears unlikely, despite Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s ruling last month that conducting the service would contravene regulations governing the site.
On Monday night, Religious Services Minister David Azoulay demanded the attorney general take action against WoW for disregarding his ruling, and to instruct the police to prevent the ceremony being conducted in the future. A representative of the Attorney-General’s Office declined to say whether or not legal measures were being considered. She said, however, that Azoulay’s complaint had been received and was being reviewed.
Mandelblit ruled in April that a female priestly blessing service would contravene Regulations for Protecting Jewish Holy Places (1981), which prohibits “conducting a religious ceremony that is not in accordance with the customs of the site.”
An attorney for WoW argued, however, that the priestly blessing was included in the definition of “local custom” as determined in the landmark Jerusalem District Court ruling in 2013 which allowed WoW to pray in accordance with their own traditions, including the use of prayer shawls and tefillin.
Hoffman said Mandelblit’s ruling had been based on false claims that 30,000 protesters were going to demonstrate against the group on Passover, saying that only a handful turned up to protest.
“There is no reason that the priestly blessing is part and parcel of prayer on one side of the divide at the Western Wall and not the other,” said Hoffman.
“I doubt the police and Justice Ministry will investigate and charge us for performing a blessing,” she added.
Attorney Prof. Aviad Hacohen, a legal expert and dean of the Academic Center of Law and Science, said theoretically an indictment could be filed against WoW on charges of disgracing a holy site, although he pointed out that such a definition depended on interpretation.
Hacohen said, however, that such a step could “negatively impact the constitutional right to freedom of worship,” and would criminalize a prayer group.
“This is not a legal problem but a societal problem, so the best thing would be for the courts not to intervene and to find a social and political solution.”