Israeli government defends backtrack on egalitarian prayer plan at the Kotel

The Israeli government has justified a decision not to implement a compromise agreed with non-Orthodox Jewish movements over the Western Wall


The Israeli government has justified its decision not to implement a plan to upgrade the egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Israel’s Supreme Court had ordered the government to respond to a request to reconsider its suspension of the plan which had been announced early last year.

The proposal was to expand the egalitarian prayer compound at the southern end of the Kotel, linking to the main plaza and placing it jointly under the supervision of the Reform and Masorti movements.

But under pressure from Orthodox politicians in the coalition, the government retreated from the plan - although it has indicated it will make some improvement to the egalitarian facility which is currently separated from the main plaza.

Israel’s Attorney-General argued that the arrangements at the wall were a matter for government policy rather than for the courts to intervene.

Now the Supreme Court will have to decide whether to rule on a petition from the non-Orthodox movements and the campaign group Women of the Wall.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was pressed over the issue in a meeting with American Jewish leaders during his visit to the States this week.

According to JTA, former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and six other senators also wrote to him.

“As United States senators and as Jews proud of the historic and powerful bond between our two nations, we write to express our deep concern about recent Israeli government decisions that continue to reject the equality of Judaism’s non-Orthodox movements,” they said.

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