Israel to allow non-Orthodox prayer at Western Wall

Thus far only Orthodox-Jewish men could pray at Jerusalem's Western Wall, a rule which has been a point of contention in Israel, and of particular concern to U.S. Reform and Orthodox Jews. Credit: Zach Evener via Wikimedia Commons.

( In a historic decision on Sunday, the Israeli cabinet has voted to allow non-Orthodox Jewish prayer in an area especially designated for the purpose at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. 

The new plan was approved by 15 government ministers, with five voting against. According to the plan, Israel also plans to build a new plaza where both men and women can pray together. The plaza will be near but separate from the Orthodox prayer plaza.

"I know this is a sensitive topic, but I think it is an appropriate solution, a creative solution," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting, during which the members voted on the plan.

"The most complex problems usually require such solutions," he said.

The decision is a "dramatic, unprecedented and critical acknowledgment" by Israel that the Western Wall should be accessible to different Jewish denominations, said the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), an umbrella group of American Jewish communities.

American Jews, many of whom are Reform and Conservative Jews, will particularly benefit from the decision.

"Though much work regarding the implementation of this decision still remains, it is because of our perseverance and commitment to Jewish peoplehood that we are measurably closer today to the ultimate symbol of that reality—one wall for one people," the statement said.

Posted on February 1, 2016 .