'Western Wall agreement to advance in winter' - coalition sources

The current government intends to advance the Western Wall agreement for a state-recognized non-Orthodox prayer section at the holy site.

Jewish worshipers celebrate Jerusalem Day at the Western Wall in 2019.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Jewish worshipers celebrate Jerusalem Day at the Western Wall in 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The government intends to advance the Western Wall agreement for a state-recognized, non-Orthodox prayer section at the holy site, but it has delayed doing so due to higher priorities, including passing the budget, coalition sources have said.
The agreement would upgrade the current egalitarian prayer section at the southern end of the Western Wall, grant it government recognition as a holy site and give Reform and Masorti (Conservative) representatives a place on the site’s governing committee.
It was passed as a government resolution in 2016 but was indefinitely suspended in 2017 due to pressure by the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties United Torah Judaism and Shas.
In theory, the government decision of 2017 to suspend implementation could be reversed by a simple vote in the cabinet, which would allow the government to start implementing the agreement.
However, it is possible that some changes could be made to the decision due to the sensitive religious nature of the issue.
Because of these sensitivities, some elements within the coalition are not fully in favor of the agreement, a government source said, adding that such concerns are also part of the reason for the delay in implementation.
The possibility exists that changes may be made to the wording of the resolution regarding membership of the governing committee, a senior government official told The Jerusalem Post.
The government wanted to pass the budget before dealing with the Western Wall agreement, which will likely stoke controversy, Blue and White MK Alon Tal told the Post.
“Once the budget is passed, I believe we should start to see progress, which should be early November at the beginning of the winter session, and we should see the agreement come into effect,” he said.
If there are further delays after this point, Tal said he would advance his own private members’ bill on the issue.
A government source said she believed the agreement would be implemented “even if some parties have to swallow this pill,” adding that Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana (Yamina) was not necessarily excited about advancing the issue.
Kahana recently said it was not one of his priorities over the next two months, and his spokesman said he had not yet addressed the issue.
However, Kahana did speak out strongly over an incident two weeks ago in which hard-line religious-Zionist activists took over the current egalitarian section on erev Tisha Be’av while a Masorti group was conducting a prayer service.
Non-Orthodox Jews were “brothers,” Kahana said, adding that the activists lacked confidence in their own religious path, which led them to fear the path of others.
The agreement would not be implemented in the coming days, the government source said, but it would happen over the course of the next few months.
It was unlikely that any “drastic changes” would be made to the agreement, but small changes were possible, she said.
“Some people are happy to delay it, so it will take a little more time, and it needs to be done in coordination with several ministries,” the government source said.