WoW April 11 arrests 4 390.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky said on Tuesday that it would take 10
months to construct the first stage of an egalitarian prayer area at the Western
Wall once a decision is formally taken to implement his plan for the
Sharansky has been tasked by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to
formulate a solution to the demands of the Women of the Wall activist group for
equal rights at the Kotel for women wishing to pray at the site in a manner
different from traditional Orthodox practice.
Speaking at a hearing of
the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, he said that construction could
begin within one month once the plan is approved.
It is understood that
the first stage of construction will include the building of a platform
approximately 30 meters in length along the southern section of the Western Wall
in what is known as the Robinson’s Arch area, comprising in total an area of
over 400 square meters.
The final prayer area, as envisioned in
Sharansky’s plan, will run some 50 or 60 meters along the length of the wall and
could be completed within two years.
Interim arrangements for Women of
the Wall prayer services at the Western Wall until the first stage of
construction is completed were also discussed at the hearing, arrangements which
will be heavily influenced by a recent Jerusalem District Court ruling that
reinterpreted the regulations pertaining to religious practice at the site and
argued that “local custom” does not necessarily mean Orthodox practice, as has
been hitherto understood.
In light of this ruling, the Attorney-
General’s Office announced Monday night that Religious Services Minister Naftali
Bennett would address the issue through amendments to the regulations on
religious practice at the site arrangements of the matter through amending the
regulations of the Law of the Holy Places, through “consultation with the
Until the regulations are amended at least, the
district court ruling, which reinterprets the regulations to allow non-Orthodox
practice at the Western Wall, will be upheld, said a representative of the
Justice Ministry present in Tuesday’s Knesset hearing.
Women of the Wall
will hold their monthly Rosh Hodesh prayer service at the Western Wall on Friday
and have declared that they will wear prayer shawls and tefillin, as is
permitted by the district court ruling.
A representative of the Jerusalem
Police stated at the hearing that the police would not act against the district
court ruling regarding religious practice on Friday, meaning that for the first
time, participants in the Women of the Wall service who chose to wear prayer
shawls and tefillin will not be subject to arrest.
Earlier on Tuesday,
Women of the Wall officials met with Bennett and Deputy Religious Services
Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, who runs the ministry, to discuss the
Women of the Wall chairwoman Anat Hoffman described the meeting
as positive, adding that this was the first time in the history of the
organization that they had met with a religious services
Following the attorney-general’s announcement Monday night, the
religious rights organization expressed concern that the amendments being
pursued by Bennett and Ben-Dahan would seek to circumvent the district court’s
ruling and explicitly define “local custom” as Orthodox
However, following the meeting with Bennett, Hoffman stated
that the impression she got was that Bennett would not seek to revoke the
group’s new-found rights and that he was interested in
Regarding the upcoming service on Friday, Bennett asked that
Women of the Wall not read from the Torah, as it had planned to do, a request
with which the group said it would comply.
Senior sources in the Bayit
Yehudi party added that there was also an agreement from Women of the Wall that
its prayer participants would not don tefillin, although this was denied by the