Bennett Reaches Out to Diaspora Jewry Amid Controversy Over Western Wall Plan

Responding to criticism in letter, Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs says plan is temporary and not perfect.

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Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett made an attempt to reconcile Diaspora Jews and released a letter to World Jewry ahead of the new Jewish year explaining his plan to resolve the ongoing dispute over the rights of non-Orthodox Jews, including women, to pray at the Western Wall according to their customs.

According to the plan, announced on Monday, a 4,840-sq-ft platform at Robinson’s Arch that can accommodate 450 worshippers at a time will be opened to egalitarian worship, with no rabbinical supervision.

"I know that the temporary platform is not perfect. But, in the spirit of Rosh Hashana, I felt an obligation to provide an immediate solution so every Jew can pray at the Kotel," Bennett's letter read.

"It is important to stress that the new platform is temporary," Bennett wrote. "I remain committed to the government’s efforts to advance the 'Sharansky Plan' as well as to continuing a dialogue with representatives from all religious movements and all parts of the Jewish nation."

"The United Synagogue conservative Judaism, The Rabbinical Assembly and the Masorti movement in Israel received the letter from Minister Bennett with great encouragement and appreciation," a joint press release by several Conservative Movement organizations read. " We share minister Bennett feelings and hope this new year will be a year in which we turn the page in the relationship between the Diaspora and Israel, and between Jews with different Jewish views in Israel, on matters of such crucial importance to all of us - The freedom of all to express their Judaism according to their own conscience."

The Women of the Wall on Sunday launched a 24-hour sit-in at the Western Wall in protest against the plan that would bar the group from praying as it sees fit at the holy site. The Women of the Wall, a group that has been waging a struggle for equal prayer rights, rejected the proposal outright.

"The plan will effectively exile women and all Jews who pray in a way that is not [in accordance with] ultra-Orthodox tradition to Robinson’s Arch and away from the area of the Western Wall where Jews have prayed for generations," the group said in a statement.

A general view of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, July 4, 2002.Credit: Reuters / Haaretz Archive

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