The Yeshiva World
The cabinet on Sunday, 21 Shevat, gave its approval for the draft plan to allocate an area for non-religious prayer near the Kosel, a site that will permit the Women of the Wall (WoW) to daven with tallis and tefilin as well as mixed prayer including men and women without a mechitzah. The cabinet did not conduct a formal vote.
The approval is hailed by the WoW organization, which has been waging its battle for decades, as well as by the Reform and Conservative Movements. The location is south of the Kosel Plaza near Robinson’s Arch and it will be open and accessible around the clock. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the plan a “creative solution” to the problem.
Representatives of WoW, Reform and Conservative Movements will be on the council that will govern the operation of the new prayer area. The council will include six public representatives who will be appointed by PM Netanyahu. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel and Rav of the Kosel & Holy Sites Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz will not have jurisdiction over the site. What was not approved is the request from WoW to have a Reform Movement rabbi supervise the locale.
Ministers Aryeh Deri and David Azoulai of Shas, Yaakov Litzman of Yahadut Hatorah, Ze’ev Elkin of Likud and Uri Ariel of Bayit Yehudi were against the plan. Bayit Yehudi was split, as party leader Naftali Bennett supports the new initiative while Ariel, from the Ichud Leumi faction of the party opposes it, stating it violates decades of a religious status quo as well as being contradictory to a Torah way of life.
Elkin, who is responsible for Jerusalem Affairs, also opposed the plan but the objections were symbolic as clearly the cabinet was going to give its stamp of approval, which the Reform and Conservative Movements feel is de-facto recognition after decades of being ignored by state agencies. Some chareidi lawmakers told the press they regard the new reality as the least of the possible evils available to them.
Commenting on the cabinet approval, Jerusalem Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar Shlita called on the frum community to unite against the new initiative. Rabbi Rabinowitz has also spoken out against the new area.