Israel shelves plan for Western Wall egalitarian plaza


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People pray at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, December 01, 2021.
Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90People pray at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, December 01, 2021.

The plan was to create a mixed-gender prayer pavilion at Jerusalem's holy site

Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana froze plans to implement a so-called Western Wall compromise deal that would accommodate mixed-gender prayer at the holy site in Jerusalem.

The compromise - a long point of debate between Israel’s government and Diaspora Jewry - would create a pluralistic prayer pavilion at the site.

Representatives of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism would share an oversight role in the plaza, The Times of Israel (ToI) reported. ...

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The arrangement, negotiated for over three years, was approved in 2016 but suspended by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu the following year due to pressure from his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.

Bennett and Kahana delayed the plan again, and according to the Hebrew publication Zman Yisrael, might give up on it completely.

Reasons for the decisions include recent violence at the Western Wall between ultra-Orthodox protesters and would-be Reform Jews, as well as efforts by the right-wing to use the compromise to fuel incitement in Israeli society against the government.

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“The Western Wall compromise has become a focus for incitement and hatred,” Kahana said over the weekend, ToI reported.

“We cannot play into their hands. We’re freezing everything at the moment. We’re not touching it,” he added.

Matan first wanted to revive the 2017 proposal but decided against it.

“We cannot be a source of conflict,” the minister said.

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