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'Women of the Wall' Back Down Over Western Wall

The 'Women of the Wall' organization are set to announce that they will hold future prayers at a new site made at Robinson's Arch.
By Adam Ross
First Publish: 10/7/2013, 3:07 PM

Naftali Bennett opens the Israel Plaza
Naftali Bennett opens the Israel Plaza
Ministry for Diaspora Affairs

The 'Women of the Wall' organization is set to announce that it will hold future prayer services at a specially created prayer area at the Kotel (Western Wall), backing down on demands that its group be allowed to hold non-traditional services in the main section of the Kotel Plaza.

The new area was erected by the government after Women of the Wall's high-profile monthly prayer gatherings - during which female activists violated Jewish norms by wearing prayer garbs traditionally reserved for men, among other things - caused offense to orthodox worshipers, leading to violent protests.

The organization's agreement, set to be announced soon, follows a Supreme Court ruling upholding the compromise which has seen a prayer area erected at Robinson's Arch.

Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Minister, MK Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi/Jewish Home) who was among the initiators of the new special extension - named "Ezrat Israel" the Israel plaza - has praised the group's decision to agree to the compromise.

"I congratulate the Women of the Wall on the emerging compromise following the government's efforts to allow prayer for all Jews at the Western Wall," which Bennett added was "vital for the strengthening of the Jewish people and the strengthening of Jerusalem."

Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avodah, a religious-Zionist movement which "seeks solutions to contemporary halachic (Jewish law) issues," also welcomed the compromise reached - and called for the government to seize "an historic opportunity and re-arrange the management of Israel's sacred places in a way that will be appropriate to the entire Jewish people."

According to the movement, the central problem is that the all of the powers to decide the policy at the Western Wall are in the hands of the Rabbi of Israel's sacred places, who is appointed by the Minister of Religious Affairs, and is a life time appointment. It added that there was "no one in charge of this position, and no-one authorized to hold it to account."

The movement proposes the creation of a "holy places authority" as opposed to a sole position. It says the authority should be established by law and include the Chief Rabbi, the Mayor of Jerusalem, the Jewish Agency, the Minister of Tourism, the Minister of religions - or representatives of all the above. The movement asserts that this body should have the authority to determine the management at Israel's holy places, including the Western Wall.

Last Friday, dozens of members of the "Women of the Wall" arrived at the Kotel to celebrate the new Hebrew month of Cheshvan, however they did not pray at the non-denominational "Israel Plaza" but instead convened in the women's section of the Western Wall plaza, surrounded by familiar protests, shouts and police officers.

Friday's prayers were not centrally organized by Women of the Wall, which had not organized transportation for the women.