Netanyahu: ‘Difficulties’ have arisen in deal for egalitarian prayer at Western Wall

Marcy Oster

Women of the Wall praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Jan. 2, 2014.(Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Women of the Wall praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Jan. 2, 2014.(Miriam Alster/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — “Several difficulties” have arisen in the deal establishing a separate egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall, Israel’s prime minister said.

“Approximately two months ago, the Cabinet decided to implement the recommendations of the advisory committee on prayer arrangements at the Western Wall,” Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday in a statement released by his office.

“Since then, several difficulties have arisen. We are working to resolve them,” the statement continued, adding:”I would like to reiterate my commitment to resolve the issue of prayer arrangements at the Western Wall in the aforesaid direction.”

Netanyahu said that he has appointed the head of the Prime Minister’s bureau, David Sharan, “to coordinate discussions on this issue with the various elements.” He said that Sharan would present within 60 days recommendations to resolve the difficulties.

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The deal announced at the end of January expands the Western Wall’s existing non-Orthodox prayer section and creates a shared entrance with the Orthodox main section to its north. Women of the Wall, which holds women’s services in the Orthodox section, eventually is to move to the non-Orthodox section as part of the deal — which originally  was backed by the Reform and Conservative movements, the Israeli government and the wall’s haredi management.

Earlier this month, the Rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz , withdrew his support for the plan and called on haredi Orthodox party leaders to introduce legislation to cancel the deal, as well as cancel a 2013 district court ruling allowing the Women of the Wall group to pray in the main Orthodox section of the wall.

Several haredi Orthodox leaders, and the chief rabbinate, have publicly opposed the plan.

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