Israel Says Would Implement Only Parts of Western Wall Compromise

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Jewish women wear prayer shawls at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on April 24, 2016.
Jewish women wear prayer shawls at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on April 24, 2016.Credit: Ariel Schalit, AP

Israel said on Monday it would "immediately" move forward on implementing parts of a Western Wall prayer compromise outlined in a cabinet decision in January, but needed more time to reach the political agreements necessary to carry out the deal.

These comments were part of the government's response to an appeal by the Women's Justice Center to the Supreme Court for immediate permission to hold mixed gender prayers in the women's section, including the use of Torah scrolls, under the supervision of the Western Wall rabbi.

Most of those involved in the appeal had abandoned Women of the Wall after the organization agreed to the cabinet's compromise in January.

The compromise calls for holding non-Orthodox prayer in the Robinson's Arch section, south of the Western Wall plaza.

The state's response says it "intends to immediately begin taking the necessary steps to adapt the prayer section at Robinson's Arch including any necessary archaeological digs. We expect the work to take about a year."

It adds that "efforts to achieve agreement, including the approval of regulations by the religious affairs minister and prayer arrangements are still underway."

The state also sought the court's approval for it to provide an update in another month.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met last week with Haredi party leaders in an effort to resolve the impasse over their having changed their minds after initially giving their tacit approval for the deal.

Liberal streams of Judaism planned to hold a mixed gender prayer session this afternoon at the Western Wall, led by the head of the U.S. movement for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs. A similar prayer session will be held on Thursday as well for the start of the Hebrew month of Tammuz.

Both the Reform and Conservative movements say they will continue to hold mixed prayers at the Western Wall until the compromise is implemented.

"The government is dragging its feet instead of showing leadership," Yizhar Hess, the executive director of the Conservative-Masorti Movement in Israel, said, expressing frustration with the state's response.

“We object to this,” said Hess. “The agreement we had with the government pertained to an entire package. We will not agree to any partial implementation.”

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