Netanyahu requests permits to expand egalitarian prayer section at Kotel

Preparations to begin construction on physical upgrades to the prayer area for non-Orthodox services began last month under the direction of the PMO.

March 1, 2018 17:26
1 minute read.

A view of the Western Wall plaza, the Dome of the Rock and the top of Al Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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The Prime Minister’s Office recently requested relevant permits to expand the egalitarian prayer area at the southern end of the Western Wall, which were approved by the Jerusalem Municipality.

Preparations to begin construction on physical upgrades to the prayer area for non-Orthodox services began last month under the direction of the Prime Minister’s Office, which is investing some NIS 19 million in the project.

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According to a report on Reshet Bet radio, the Prime Minister’s Office made the request, which was promptly approved by the city engineers department without convening a committee hearing.

It appears that the permits requested will expand the size of the prayer area in accordance with plans delineated in the cabinet’s comprehensive January 2016 Western Wall resolution, which was subsequently shelved in June 2017 due to Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) political pressure.

The upgrades to the egalitarian prayer area are being carried out on the instructions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who wants to implement the physical improvements to the site without other critical aspects of the agreement in order to appease the progressive Jewish movements, and the High Court of Justice, after canceling the comprehensive deal.

In response, the Jerusalem Municipality said that the Antiquities Authority, which currently administers the site, had requested that the construction is conducted in accordance with permits which were originally issued in 2014.

“These were not new permits that require new approval by the local committee, but rather approval by the authority of the city engineer,” said the Jerusalem Municipality in response to a request for comment.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office declined to say whether or not the request to expand the site had emanated from its offices.

The Reform movement, in particular, has rejected the prime minister’s upgrade plan, with director Rabbi Gilad Kariv saying that it is being done on a unilateral basis without consultation with the progressive Jewish movements, which he says have not even been briefed on details of the upgrades.

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