Jerusalem Police: We Will Not Obstruct Women's Prayer at Western Wall

Announcement made at Knesset debate, following court decision that Women of the Wall can pray as they choose at holy site; Kotel rabbi endorses Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky's compromise for egalitarian prayer.

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Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky presented his proposal on the Women of the Wall to the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women on Tuesday.

The proposal to set up a new egalitarian prayer section at the holy site, which has the support of the Reform and Conservative movements, centers around renovating the Robinson's Arch area adjacent to the Western Wall. This is the area the High Court in 2003 had designated as an alternative so that it would be more of an extension of the Kotel plaza, and would be open most hours of the day to accommodate both WOW and non-Orthodox groups who wanted to hold services.

Sharansky said the goal is a solution that will enable every Jew to express his or her connection to God and the Jewish people and that it can only be reached through dialogue between the different segments of the Jewish people.

The organization behind the struggle to change the rules of prayer for women at the Kotel expressed reservations about the proposal last week, citing they would like to continue operating as a women's group.

MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), who chairs the Knesset panel on women and had advocated for Sharansky's proposal, warned that the current limbo, "in which it isn't clear what is permitted and what is prohibited, could lead to serious problems on Friday."

This coming Friday, WOW plans to hold its prayer service in honor of Rosh Hodesh (the first day of the Hebrew month of Sivan), with prayer shawls, tefillin, a Torah scroll and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein's consent, who decided not to appeal the decision.

Michael Frankenberg, legal advisor to the Jerusalem police said at the meeting that they would act in accordance with the court's decision, and not obstruct the women's prayers, shawls, tefillin and all.

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch endorsed Sharansky's proposal, though he pointed out there are parts he agreed with less.

Harel Goldberg, a representative from the Justice Ministry, said the Attorney General's decision not to appeal the court ruling supports the notion that prayer at the Kotel must be more inclusive and liberal than the Orthodox Jewish custom.

Meanwhile, Israel's Minister of Religious Affairs Naftali Bennett plans to present new regulations for Jewish holy places that could restrict the right of Women of the Wall to pray as they see fit in the future, though he promised to formulate the new rules with input from the women's group.

A Women of the Wall member being detained by police in the Old City of Jerusalem, April 11, 2013.Credit: Michal Fattal
The Western Wall plaza in the Old City of Jerusalem, where a proposed office building and museum will be smaller than originally planned.Credit: AP

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