Egalitarian prayer service in Western Wall plaza given green light

Religious Services Ministry tells Western Wall rabbi that he does not have the authority to ban a mixed prayer service in the upper plaza.

June 16, 2016 12:00
1 minute read.
Women of the Wall

Women of the Wall hold Priestly Blessing ceremony at Western Wall . (photo credit: WOMEN OF THE WALL)

A potentially explosive prayer service planned for Thursday afternoon by the Reform and Masorti (Conservative) Movements in the upper Western Wall plaza has been approved by the legal adviser to the Religious Services Ministry and the Attorney General.

The egalitarian service is a warning shot by the progressive Jewish denominations to the government over the ongoing delay in implementing the cabinet decision in January to create an upgraded, government-recognized egalitarian prayer section at the southern end of the Western Wall.

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The legal adviser to the ministry wrote today (Thursday) to the Administrator of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, saying that there was no room to use his authority under the regulations for protecting the holy sites to ban a mixed prayer service in the upper plaza.

Rabinowitz had ostensibly written to the ministry legal adviser requesting that he be enabled to ban the planned prayer service in accordance with the regulations for protecting the holy sites, which prohibits “conducting a religious ceremony not in accordance with customs of the site which harms the sensitivities of worshippers at the site.”

The ministry legal adviser Attorney Yisrael Pat noted in his letter that the decision to allow the service to take place was in accordance with the views of the attorney general.

The Reform and Masorti Movements decided to stage the prayer rally in the upper plaza following a much-criticized visit by Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar to the current pluralist prayer space at the southern end of the Western Wall where he held a morning prayer service with a partition separating between male and female worshippers.

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