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August 26, 2013 8:35 am

Israeli Government Announces New Western Wall Prayer Area

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A Women of the Wall prayer service. Photo: Women of the Wall. The Israeli government released a plan on Sunday to oversee the development of a new, temporary egalitarian space at the Western Wall in Jerusalem to be called the “Israeli section” or “Israeli extension.” The new area, which would be situated adjacent to the existing plaza, was planned for nontraditional Jewish streams, including Women of the Wall.

Women of the Wall immediately dismissed the initiative—drawn up by Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett and Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mendelblit—saying, “The expansion has no connection to the sanctity of the Western Wall.”

“I am not willing to have an internal dispute among Jewish people at this holy site before Rosh Hashanah,” Bennett responded.

The government would build the new space at Robinson’s Arch. It is meant to serve as a temporary solution until the Sharansky plan—named after its author, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky—is implemented and a permanent area is built.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and Sharansky worked together to complete plans for the permanent structure. Sharansky welcomed Bennett’s plan as a temporary solution to the demands of Women of the Wall and other nontraditional Jews seeking a more egalitarian space at the holy site.

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