Non-Orthodox prayer area near Western Wall to remain under government control

Area to be run in accordance with the terms of the future deal currently under discussion between the government, non-Orthodox Jewish denominations.

March 7, 2014 00:04
1 minute read.
WOMEN OF the Wall say the ‘Shema’ near the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Women of the Wall say the ‘Shema’ near the Western Wall 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

An agreement regarding the management of the nascent pluralist Israel Plaza prayer area and the Jerusalem Archeological Park at the southern end of the Western Wall has been reached.

The agreement, brokered by Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, will ensure state control of the site, which reportedly was to come under the authority of the Ir David Foundation (Elad).

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It was reported last week that the Ir David Foundation, which runs the City of David archeological park, was on the verge of being appointed by the local authorities in the Old City of Jerusalem to run the plaza.

Concerns were raised that this could hurt the freedom of prayer of Jewish non-Orthodox and pluralist groups, including the Women of the Wall organization, which have recently been allotted a prayer space in the area of the southern Western Wall.

The Jerusalem Post has learned that in the agreement advanced by Bennett, the prayer area would not come under the authority of any body that would take over the management of the Jerusalem Archeological Park, including the Ir David foundation.

The site would instead remain under state control, and will be run in accordance with the terms of the deal currently being negotiated between the government and the non-Orthodox Jewish denominations.

“The Israel Plaza belongs to the Jewish people and will remain under the control of the State of Israel,” Bennett said during discussions on the issue. “I did not build the plaza for it to be run by a private organization.”

The reports about the possibility that the Ir David Foundation could take over the management of the site generated anger from non-Orthodox groups, who emphasized that one of their primary goals is to have control over their designated prayer space.

Leaders of the Reform and Conservative groups wrote to cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit to express concern that the pluralist prayer area would be under the control of the foundation, which is a religious, Orthodox group associated with the settler movement.

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