Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), is due to present a plan for an egalitarian section at the Western Wall to American Jewish leaders today, The Forward has reported.
The reported proposals come after months of tension surrounding the holy site, including many arrests of members of Women of the Wall, a group seeking equal prayer rights for women, who have tried to daven there wearing tallit. Mr Sharansky has been asked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to find solutions to the problems.
The proposals are to expand the prayer space at the Kotel to include Robinson’s Arch at the southern end of the wall and to use that space for egalitarian prayer, the Forward reported.
It is currently possible to hold egalitarian prayers at the arch within limited times and after paying an entrance fee. Under the new reported proposals, the area will be accessible at all times, like the rest of the wall.
Commentators criticise the plan as impractical, however. The Robinson’s Arch area is on the other side of a bridge allowing access to Temple Mount, and the Islamic trust that oversees Temple Mount may be reluctant to allow changes to it. Without the bridge being altered or removed, the new egalitarian prayer space would be cut off from the rest of the Kotel.
Neither would these proposals answer the demands of the Women of the Wall, who do not wish to pray in a separate space.
JAFI has confirmed that Mr Sharansky is in the US and in meetings with US Jewish leaders, but did not comment on the reports.