The president of Israel took a leave of absence for a day this week. Why? In order not to be present at the swearing in of Dorit Beinisch, the new head of the Israel Supreme Court. [He is being questioned on allegations relating to harassment.]
Judge Beinisch will always be associated in my mind with the type of activism that led her to vote in 2000 to change the prayer arrangements at the Western Wall’s women’s section. She voted to allow the Women of the Wall to conduct Torah readings in tallitot and tefillin, changing long-standing “minhag hamakom.”
The decision was appealed by Elyakim Rubinstein, and in 2003 nine judges went down to the women’s section to check things out. They ruled that the Women of the Wall can pray at the wall, but at a separate southern section called Robinson’s Arch. The nine-judge appeal modified (in reality, overturned) the earlier decision. Judge Beinisch stuck to her guns and voted again for Women of the Wall, but there was a majority of 5 judges who voted for the Robinson’s Arch proviso. Suprisingly, then-Court President Aharon Barak was among the latter. Justice Beinisch is considered a clone of Barak, but in this case she diverged from his opinion (or he diverged from hers.) I had written about this earlier in Cross-Currents last summer.
Judge Beinisch represents the activism that interferes where the court should not. This pertains not only to the ezrat nashim of Orthodox women (I don’t think Judge Beinisch frequents women’s sections of synagogues, aside from checking out the Wall); but this exaggerated court activism and inappropriate interference also has led her to instruct the army, income tax, and other arms of the government how to execute their responsibilities. You can read her decisions in Hebrew by going to the Israel Supreme Court website. For the Women of the Wall decisions ask for number 2258/95 (the earlier decision in 2000) and then the appeal 4128/00 (the 2003 decision on the appeal). If you have trouble finding them, contact me and I will send you the two files. The decisions on Women of the Wall run to the dozens of pages.
What is the upshot? What happens now on Rosh Hodesh at the Wall? The Women of the Wall still come at 7 am Rosh Hodesh (second day if there are two) in tallitot and pray Shaharit and sing Hallel in the regular women’s section of the Wall. Then they go at 8 am to Robinson’s Arch and conduct a Torah reading and Musaf. The dates they will be there are:
Heshvan — Mon., Oct. 23, 2006
Kislev — Weds., Nov. 22
Tevet (and Hanukah!) — Fri., Dec. 22
Shevat — Rosh Hodesh shabbat (Jan. 20)will not meet
Adar — Mon., Feb. 19, 2007
Nisan — Tues., March 20
Iyyar — Thurs., April 19
Sivan — Fri., May 18
Tammuz — Sun., June 17
Av — Mon., July 16
Elul — Weds., Aug. 15
An interesting lesson in the evolution of a modus vivendi in Eretz Israel.