Jewish women pray in a separate area at the Wailing Wall © Elisabeth Schomaker (KNA)
Is the expansion of a mixed-gender prayer area at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall coming?? In ongoing dispute over prayer rights, Israel now apparently wants to invest several million euros in expansion.
The government submitted plans to this effect to the Supreme Court in a statement on Monday, Israeli media reported. Various non-Orthodox and feminist groups had petitioned the court last September to establish a mixed-gender prayer section. A court hearing is expected at the end of July.
No Tohra roles in women's ministry
According to the report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office already decided at the end of June to invest the equivalent of 4.7 million euros in upgrading an already established platform for non-traditional prayers at the so-called Robinson Arch between Wailing Wall Square and the neighboring Archaeology Park.
The work is to be carried out within ten months by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). The state has rejected demands by women's rights activists to be allowed to bring Torah scrolls into the women's section of the Wailing Wall. Women who wanted to read from the Torah could do so in the mixed-sex section.
Criticism from conservative circles
Conservative and Reform Jewish groups rejected the government's statement as unacceptable, according to reports. The proposed platform would not provide direct access to the Wailing Wall and would reinforce the status of non-Orthodox Jews as second-class, for example, said the senior director of the Reform Jewish movement in Israel, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, according to a report in the Haaretz daily newspaper.
After much wrangling, Israel originally agreed in January 2016 to set up a 900-square-meter communal prayer zone south of the existing gender-segregated sections, but postponed the project indefinitely in June.