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June 28, 2018 10:11 am

Citing ‘Conscience,’ Culture Minister Hampers Western Wall Prayer Plaza Plans

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Israeli Minister of Sports and Culture Miri Regev speaks to the press at the sports ministry’s offices in Tel Aviv on June 6, 2018. Photo: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90. – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday ‎removed Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev from ‎her position as head of the Ministerial Committee ‎for Holy Places in an effort to facilitate a planned expansion ‎of the mixed-gender prayer plaza at the Western Wall ‎in Jerusalem, which Regev opposes.

The expansion is part of Israel’s attempt to resolve ‎the deep dispute between the government and non-‎‎Orthodox streams of US Jewry over the issue of ‎‎mixed-gender prayer at the holy site. The dispute was triggered by ‎the government’s decision to cancel a plan to build a ‎new egalitarian prayer plaza at the Western Wall. ‎ ‎

Regev had refused to convene the ‎committee to discuss the expansion plans, saying her ‎‎”conscience would not allow” her to do so.

‎”In the last few months I have been thinking it over, ‎but my conscience would not allow me to do it,” she ‎posted on Facebook.‎ ‎

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“I could not confirm the Western Wall plan in a ‎manner that would have harmed the world order. The ‎Reform Jews’ demand to turn the Western Wall into a ‎place where women and men pray together is ‎unacceptable to me and to the heritage of the people ‎of Israel.

‎”I decided to be loyal to my conscience. Therefore, I informed the prime minister that I do ‎not intend to approve the Western Wall plan by ‎virtue of my authority as head of the Committee for ‎Holy Places. Everyone is allowed to visit the ‎Western Wall and pray there as long as they respect ‎the site and its heritage.‎

‎”We did not return to the holiest of our sites in ‎order to desecrate it. I have faith and hope that we ‎will preserve and honor the sanctity of the Western ‎Wall.”

Sources at the Culture and Sports Ministry said ‎Netanyahu had discussed the move with Regev in advance and she had agreed to the change. ‎

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) ‎and Religious Services Minister David Azoulay (Shas) ‎are also members of the Ministerial Committee for ‎Holy Places, but it remains unclear whether Netanyahu ‎plans to tap one of them to oversee the expansion ‎plans. ‎

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