Palestinians Say New Western Wall Section Violates Status Quo

Israel will use the construction to undermine Al-Aqsa, 'Judaize' the Old City, Palestinian religious affairs minister says.

Jack Khoury
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The area where a plaza for mixed-gender prayer will be placed at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem's Old City, February 1, 2016.
The area where a plaza for mixed-gender prayer will be placed at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem's Old City, February 1, 2016. Credit: AP
Jack Khoury

The Palestinian Authority said on Monday that a plan to create a new area by the Western Wall, where worshippers of all Jewish denominations will be allowed to hold mixed prayer services for women and men, violates the status quo on the Temple Mount.

Palestinian Waqf and Religious Affairs Minister Sheikh Yousef Adeis warned on Monday that the Palestinians see the plan as part of an ongoing Israeli attempt to undermine Al-Aqsa Mosque and to "Judaize" Jerusalem's Old City.

According to Adeis, the entire Al-Aqsa complex, including its walls and gates, is holy to Islam, and the Western Wall is considered part of its walls. In addition, Adeis claims, the prayer area at the Western Wall was built on a Palestinian neighborhood which was uprooted by Israel after the 1967 Six Day War, and therefore any Israeli construction in the area is seen by the Palestinians as part of the same Israeli aggression.

The government on Sunday approved the long-awaited plan for an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall. The ministers who voted against the plan, which has been hailed as historic, were all Orthodox.

The new 900-square-meter section is expected to open to the public in a few months from now. This new section will be located at the southern expanse of the Western Wall. A temporary platform set up there two years ago by former Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett will be removed, and in its place, a permanent and much larger multi-level structure will be built.