Construction begins on Western Wall section for egalitarian prayer


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Construction has begun to upgrade the section set aside for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall.

Workers reportedly arrived at the site on Thursday and began erecting scaffolding at the southern end of the Western Wall.

The work, which has a budget of more than $7 million, comes more than a year after a more comprehensive plan was approved, and more than half a year after the plan was frozen.

In June, the Cabinet suspended the deal passed in 2016 as a result of negotiations between the Reform and Conservative movements, the Women of the Wall, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government. The suspension came after the government’s haredi Orthodox coalition partners pressured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to scrap the agreement.  The plan also would have included a common entrance to the Western Wall plaza for all three sections and a public board to oversee the egalitarian prayer space and would include representatives of the non-Orthodox movements and Women of the Wall.

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Israel’s Supreme Court during a four-hour session on the issue of prayer rights for women at the Western Wall last month indicated that physical upgrades to the section set aside for egalitarian prayer is key to satisfying the government’s suspended agreement with the liberal Jewish groups.

Israeli’s Masorti and Reform movements told the local media that the government did not consult or coordinate with them on the physical changes. The Supreme Court also has not yet ruled on whether the government had the right to freeze the comprehensive plan.