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Court: Women may read at Western Wall

In a groundbreaking decision, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that women may read aloud from the Torah at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site.

A panel of three judges reinterpreted a law governing Jewish holy sites and lifted bans on women praying from the Torah scroll, the Jewish holy text, and wearing the prayer shawl traditionally worn by men at the holy site.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews say women praying from the Torah violates Jewish law and the division of roles that God assigned men and women. Before the ruling, a woman could face a six-month jail sentence for violating the ban.

Religion Minister Yitzhak Cohen, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, vowed to submit legislation to override the court ruling.

The Western Wall, divided into sections for men and women, is the only intact remnant of the Jewish Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. It has been a flashpoint between ultra-Orthodox Jews and more liberal streams of Judaism that seek to pray at the site.

Anat Hoffman, who appealed on behalf of the organization "Women of the Wall," called the ruling a turning point in a society where the ultra-Orthodox control even civil functions like death and marriage ceremonies.

"I was ashamed that I lived in a city and belonged to a religion where a woman who prays there could be imprisoned for half a year," Hoffman said. "Today that stain has been removed."

Earlier attempts by women to conduct services at the Wall have prompted violent protests by the ultra-Orthodox.