Last week, Bayit Yehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett established a new prayer section, “Ezrat Yisrael,” adjacent to the Kotel (Western Wall). It was an attempt to create unity and peace at the Kotel by providing a space for non-Orthodox Jews to carry out their rituals without offending or disrupting Orthodox Jews elsewhere at the Kotel.
However, Bennett’s program has now been met with backlash from the Arab world, particularly the Jordanian government, which has called on the international community to pressure Israel to discontinue building the prayer plaza, which they consider as defacement of the western wall of the Al Aqsa Mosque.
“The construction is a blatant assault on Islamic historical remnants of the Waqf,” said Jordanian government spokesman, Mohamed al Momeni, in an interview with Petra news agency. “Islamic land is an integral part of the Al Aqsa Mosque.”
The Jordanian government’s words echo that of the Arab media who have voiced their condemnation publicly in recent days. Al Quds and Al Ayyam newspapers both reported last week that the Al Aqsa Foundation and Cultural Heritage Organization stated that “the Israeli occupation is on the verge of completing construction for a broad iron plaza near the Western Wall to use as a place of worship for the Women of the Wall.”
“The area will turn into an active synagogue, serving about 450 worshipers. The construction was carried out in accordance with the decision from the Minister of Economy and Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora, Naftali Bennett, along with the Prime Minister and the Head of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky.”
The Al Aqsa Foundation added that “the Israeli occupation continues to excavate the Mughrabi Gate and further excavates the Western Wall, destroying Islamic antiquities.”
Bennett is, however, aware that many have criticized his plaza initiative for either being "not good enough", or for "going too far," yet in Bennett's eyes, the Ezrat Yisrael is "a wonderful thing."
Arab and Islamist groups routinely seek to deny Jewish claims to any and every part of Jerusalem, including Judaism's holiest site, the Temple Mount, with the Waqf Islamic trust and Palestinian Authority regularly claiming that the two Jewish Temples there never existed.
In recent years they have taken aim at the Kotel as well. Only last month an official PA-affiliated Facebook page denied the wall had any connection to Jewish history at all, claiming it was the site where Mohammed tethered his mythical winged horse, as opposed to a remnant of the Jewish Temple complex.