(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) The Israeli government released a plan on Sunday to oversee the development of a new, temporary egalitarian space adjacent to the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem, to be called the “Israeli section” or “Israeli extension.”
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, at which point a permanent egalitarian area would be built.
Women of the Wall—the group that seeks egalitarian prayer services in the Western Wall’s women’s section—dismissed the initiative, which was drawn up by Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett and Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mendelblit, on the grounds that it doesn’t offer egalitarian access to the wall itself.
“The current plaza, essentially a raised platform on scaffolding, has no connection to the sanctity of the Western Wall. It’s a ‘sundeck,’ looking out on the Western Wall from afar. It’s not conducive to any of the symbolic elements of [the Wall], touching the Wall or placing a note inside of it. It’s an embarrassing solution, which keeps more than 50 percent of Israelis in the backyard,” said Anat Hoffman, chairman of Women of the Wall.
Bennett responded, “I am not willing to have an internal dispute among Jewish people at this holy site before Rosh Hashanah.”
The Jewish Agency’s Sharansky welcomed Bennett’s plan as a temporary solution to the requests of Women of the Wall and other Jews seeking a more egalitarian space at the holy site.