Poll: 90% of Israelis want less gender-separation at Kotel

Poll 90% of Israelis wa

A new poll conducted by Hiddush, a group promoting religious freedom and equality in Israel, shows that 90 percent of the adult Jewish population here wants to see, at minimum, a liberalization of the gender-separation policy at the Kotel. The poll taken by the Smith Institute for Hiddush showed a significant increase compared with a previous survey conducted this past summer, which showed that 80% wanted a reduction. The latest survey was conducted between December 16 and 18, of 500 people, as a representative sample of the adult Jewish population. Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev said Wednesday in response to the poll that "the data prove that the public opposes radicalization with regards to the separation between men and women and is tired of the 'terror of modesty' of the rabbis who encourage it. "We must stop the degradation of women sent to sit in the back of the bus illegally and we must return the Wall to all the people of Israel, including women." According to Hiddush's Web site, the group's goal is to "promote religious freedom and diversity while realizing the promise of Israel's founders." In the current poll, the 90% in favor of a change included 81% of the self-defined religious people who were polled. These respondents were either against the mehitzot that separate the men from the women or wanted them to be moved to give the same amount of space to both. Seventy-one percent of respondents believed that the mehitzot degrade women. According to Hiddush, Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch tried this past year to impose a policy of separating the sexes throughout the Kotel plaza. Seventy-four percent of those polled opposed this. Of these, 40% were in favor of mixing genders throughout the Kotel area while 34% favored the status quo that had prevailed since the Six Day War, in which the area in front of the Wall, which is used for prayer, is gender-separated, while the upper plaza is not.