Women pray at the Western Wall.
(photo credit: JWRP)
The plan passed in the cabinet by a vote of 15-5. The nay votes were cast by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay, Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi), and Absorption Minister Ze'ev Elkin (Likud).
Following the vote, Eli Groner, the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office who Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu selected as person to both oversee implementation of the plan to create an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall and serve as the administrator of the committee set up to govern the new area, told The Jerusalem Post that the plan should be viewed as “a practical compromise, not an ideological compromise.”
“This is a situation where we need a practical resolution, despite there being very real and fundamental differences of opinion,” he said. “There can be no doubt that we are the nation state of the entire Jewish people, and not only Israeli citizens, and my hope is that this will connect more and more people from the Jewish world to Jerusalem.”
The vote followed what one participant described as an impassioned debate, with Ariel saying there was no reason to give in to the Reform and Conservative movements on his issue.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud),who ultimately voted for the proposal, said it gives the Conservative and Reform movements more than they deserve regarding the size of their movements, but that if the compromise was not reached, then the Supreme Court would force what he said would be an even worse arrangement on the government.
A similar argument was made by Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi), who voted for the plan, even though he made clear he did not like it.
The government is allocating some NIS 35 million for the construction of the new area, and also to purchase the religious items – such as prayer books, Torah scrolls, arks, ark covers and prayer shawls – for the running of services there. There will be no rabbi for the new area.
The source of some NIS 25 million of the budget has already been found, including NIS 5 million from the PMO, NIS5 million from the Finance Ministry, and the rest from other government bodies. Groner will still need to come up with another NIS 10 million from other government ministries. While allowing the pluralistic streams of Judaism to perform services the way they desire in the new area – with the exception that no musical instruments will be allowed there on Shabbat or the holidays – the plan formalizes that the orthodox tradition of prayer will be maintained in the existing prayer plaza.