Israel freezes plan for mixed prayer at Western Wall

Claudine Rigal
Juin 25, 2017

Deputy minister and former USA ambassador Michael Oren criticizes Netanyahu's decision to freeze the government-approved plan for pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall as the "abandonment of Zionism", and says it unfairly demonizes non-Orthodox Jews.

The decision negates an agreement passed in January 2016 by the government for an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall, which was negotiated by the Reform and Conservative movements, the Women of the Wall, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government. Most religious rites take place in the men's section in accordance with centuries-old Orthodox standards that hold sway in Israel. The government has faced calls by more progressive Jewish movements in Israel and overseas to add an egalitarian section along the wall and in 2016 voted 15-5 to do so, over the objections of ultra-Orthodox cabinet members.

But the program was never implemented due to opposition by powerful ultra-Orthodox political parties.

A statement from the Prime Miniter Benjamin Netanyahu's office said that he had tasked minister Tzachi Hanegbi and cabinet secretary Tzachi Braverman with formulating a new plan.

"Today's decision signifies a retreat from that agreement and will make our work to bring Israel and the Jewish world closer together increasingly more hard", he added. Under ultra-Orthodox management, the wall is now separated between men's and women's prayer sections. The wall is officially administered by an ultra-Orthodox rabbi.

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