Eideard

Israel considers moving from 19th to 20th Century at Western Wall

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Anat Hoffman being arrested for praying

Jerusalem -— Amid outrage across the Jewish diaspora over a flurry of recent arrests of women seeking to pray at the Western Wall with ritual garments in defiance of Israeli law, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency, to study the issue and suggest ways to make the site more accommodating to all Jews.

The move comes after more than two decades of civil disobedience by a group called Women of the Wall against regulations, legislation and a 2003 Israeli Supreme Court ruling that allow for gender division at the wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, and prohibit women from carrying a Torah or wearing prayer shawls there.

Although the movement has struggled to gain traction in Israel, where the ultra-Orthodox retain great sway over public life, the issue has deepened a divide between the Jewish state and Jews around the world at a time when Israel is battling international isolation over its settlement policy. Critics, particularly leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements in the United States, complain that the government’s recent aggressive enforcement of restrictions at the wall has turned a national monument into an ultra-Orthodox synagogue…

Mr. Sharansky said the Jewish Agency itself stopped having ceremonies for new immigrants in the plaza about two years ago after the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which controls the site, said that men and women could not sit together…

Asked whether he could imagine a day when women could wear prayer shawls and read a Torah at the wall itself, Mr. Sharansky said, “I imagine very easily a situation where everybody will have their opportunity to express their solidarity with Judaism and the Jewish people and the state of Israel in a way he or she wants, without undermining the other.”

Words, words, words.

While Anat Hoffman said the women’s group would be satisfied if it were allowed to pray at the wall once a month with full regalia, her religious action center wants hours each day, between scheduled prayer times, when the gender partition is removed and people can freely enjoy the site as a cultural monument.

“If in the end what happens is that the Robinson’s Arch area will be run by the Jewish Agency instead of the antiquities department, then we’re talking about who’s going to take care of the air-conditioning in the back of the bus,” she said. “I don’t care about that. I don’t want to sit in the back of the bus. I want to dismantle the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.”

Overdue. By decades.

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Written by Ed Campbell

December 26, 2012 at 2:00 am

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