A group of women prayed together in the women’s section of the main plaza of the Western Wall Wednesday, to demonstrate their opposition to the agreement that provides for a new and expanded egalitarian prayer section at Robinson’s Arch.
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The group, which calls itself “Original Women of the Wall,” broke off two years ago from the Women of the Wall when the latter agreed to negotiate with a committee headed by then-cabinet secretary Amichai Mendelblit about leaving the main Kotel plaza under Chief Rabbinate supervision, and moving the Women of the Wall’s prayer services to the Robinson’s Arch area further south along the Western Wall, where a platform was set up for egalitarian services with no separation between men and women. That prayer area is now going to be expanded, and a new joint entry point to the Western Wall Plaza will allow visitors to access either prayer space.
The opponents include numerous Orthodox women who cannot accept the new arrangement because they want to maintain gender-separated prayer, even if they choose to wear prayer shawls and tefillin and want to read from a Torah scroll. According to Shulamit Magnus, a former executive committee member of Women of the Wall and now a leader of the breakaway group, “We have been praying here for more than 27 years, and we will continue to do so. We are the originals; we have not abandoned our original message that every woman has the right to pray at the Kotel.
“There is no connection between us and this agreement; we were not part of the discussions,” she continued. “We’re happy that the Reform and Conservative movements will have a place at Robinson’s Arch, but that isn’t relevant to us. The government is using our rights to pay for the rights of someone else. That’s unreasonable.”