Bennett calls on Jews to visit Robinson's Arch for Rosh Hashana

MK urges visits to Western Wall to pray at newly upgraded site for non-Orthodox services.

Robinson's Arch 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Robinson's Arch 370
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett has issued a call to Reform and Conservative Jews to visit the Western Wall during the High Holy Days and pray at the newly upgraded site for non- Orthodox services.
On Sunday, Bennett announced that the Robinson’s Arch area, just south of the main Western Wall Plaza, had undergone a substantial upgrade. The new prayer platform there covers approximately 450 square meters and can accommodate approximately 450 worshippers. Torah scrolls, prayer books and prayer shawls will be made available at the site, which will be accessible seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
The Robinson’s Arch site was designated a prayer area for non-Orthodox services in 1998, and a small prayer platform was constructed there in 2004.
Writing on his Facebook page Sunday night, Bennett said the Western Wall belonged to all Jews but noted that many who visit the site do not feel comfortable there. He stated explicitly that he was not referring to the Women of the Wall.
“In recent years, a lot of tension has been created around the Western Wall. A large part of the public – and I am specifically not referring to the ‘Women of the Wall’ but to the Jewish people as a whole – feels that it is difficult to come to the Western Wall. That they don’t connect,” the minister wrote.
“There are many Jewish denominations in the world, and the majority of the Jewish people in the Diaspora are not Orthodox,” he continued. “As the Minister for Diaspora Affairs I believe the Western Wall belongs to all the Jews in the world, not to one denomination or the other.”
Bennett said that despite criticism by Women of the Wall (WoW) that the Robinson’s Arch area was not on an equal footing with the rest of the plaza, the upgraded site would “enable unity and peace at the Western Wall.” He concluded by inviting the public to visit the site during Rosh Hashana.
Meanwhile, approximately 20 women, including the heads of WoW, participated in a 24-hour sit-in at the Western Wall that ended Monday afternoon. It was held in protest against the Robinson’s Arch upgrade.
The group believes he renovated site represents the basis for what a committee headed by Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit will recommend as a permanent solution for all non-Orthodox prayer at the Western Wall.
A WoW spokeswoman said the group prayed, studied and sang during the vigil, which actually ended a couple of hours early owing to a large prayer service that was scheduled to take place at the Kotel that evening.
The group conducted prayer services in the women’s section at the Wall, and for morning prayers some donned prayer shawls and tefillin. The shofar was blown at the end of the service.
Prior to April, an Israeli law pertaining to holy sites, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in 2003 and a Justice Ministry directive from 2005, prohibited non- Orthodox practices at the Western Wall. Consequently, members of WoW prayer groups frequently have been arrested for wearing prayer shawls and tefillin, and for conducting similar practices that Orthodox Judaism reserves for men.
But an April ruling by Jerusalem District Court Judge Moshe Sobel effectively reinterpreted the law and thereby allowed women to pray according to their own customs.
The WoW spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post that the group was concerned that with the Robinson’s Arch area upgrade, Bennett, who also serves as minister for religious services, could issue regulations creating a new legal reality that once again prevents the group from praying at the site according to its traditions.
WoW called again on Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni to prevent such an eventuality.