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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776
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Women of the Wall Protesting Bennett’s High Holidays Plan

"Today this affects Women of the Wall but tomorrow it will affect every Israeli and Jew around the world…."
There's no God over here, God is around the corner, where the Haredim are davening… WOW chair Anat Hoffman speaking to the press after saying no to the Bennett Plan to build a prayer area outside the Kotel plaza but still adjacent to the Kotel.

There's no God over here, God is around the corner, where the Haredim are davening… WOW chair Anat Hoffman speaking to the press after saying no to the Bennett Plan to build a prayer area outside the Kotel plaza but still adjacent to the Kotel.
Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Minister of Religious Services Naftali Bennett announced on Sunday his support for the Mendelblit plan, drawn by the Prime Minister’s Office’s committee charged with the task of solving the problem of “inequality” at the Western Wall.

The committee is promoting a solution that utilizes a wooden balcony which has been built on scaffolding in the middle of Robinson’s Arch, near the Western Wall. The new section will permit mixed prayers of men and women and will be dubbed “Israel section.”

Women of the Wall are complaining that the plan will “effectively exile women and all Jews who pray in a way that is not ultra-Orthodox tradition to Robinson’s Arch and away from the area of the Western Wall where Jews have prayed for generations.”

According to WOW, should the new plan be executed, the government will be excluding more 50% of Jewish population to the “back of the bus.”

That’s a bit of a stretch, of course, since the majority of Israeli women feel quite comfortable in the women’s section – on those rare occasions when they show up at prayer services.

The new mixed prayer area outside the Kotel plaza in Jerusalem. Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

The new mixed prayer area outside the Kotel plaza in Jerusalem. Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

“Women of the Wall rejects the Mendelblit plan which dangerously circumvents the pluralist Sobel Disctrict Court decision,” WOW declared on Sunday. “We are at a crossroads for religious freedom and freedom of expression in Israel. Today this affects Women of the Wall but tomorrow it will affect every Israeli and Jew around the world. What has been proven today is that the bullies were victorious—with their assault, spitting and cursing at women. Mendelblit and Bennett have given in to the threats and violence of the Haredi extremist minority in Israel and this is a dangerous precedent for our democracy.”

WOW complain that, according to the proposed plan, the wooden stage erected at the center of the archaeological visitor’s center “is concerning only mixed prayer, and therefore does not provide a solution for Women of the Wall, a mixed women’s prayer section.”

An email they sent out Sunday contends that “The plan leaves control over the entire area in the hands of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, an organization run by a vast majority ultra-Orthodox men. The stage is in no way equal topographically or geographically to the original plaza, nor does it come close to the Wall itself, as it stands to the back of the Robinson’s Arch area. This plan is the very definition of separate, and not nearly close to equal, it provides an out of sight- out of mind solution silencing women at the Western Wall.”

The argument is strangely familiar, reminiscent of Jewish complaints about how the Jordanian Waqf has been controlling the Temple Mount – but any attempt to solicit from WOW an expression of empathy for Jews on the Mount have been met with staunch denial of similarity…

When all else is lost, WOW are appealing to the one true supporter they have in the current government – you guessed it:

“We call upon Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni to reject this plan, to demand equal rights for women to pray at the women’s section of the Western Wall. Women of the Wall is calling for a 24 hour sit-in at the Western Wall in the hopes that the government will reject this plan and support the District Court Decision in which all women can pray freely at the Western Wall.”

Yori Yanover

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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