Can Natan Sharansky Settle Western Wall Feud?

Women's Prayer Dispute Roils Jewish Diaspora

By JTA

Published January 07, 2013.
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“I think what’s happening today at the Kotel is the best for all viewpoints of the world,” Rabinowitz told JTA. “No one gets exactly what they want – not haredim and not Women of the Wall. If someone thinks they can bring something better, I’d love to hear it.”

Rabinowitz declined to comment on time- or space-sharing proposals.

Meanwhile, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which controls the Kotel, announced recently that women are no longer allowed to bring tallit or tefillin into the Kotel Plaza.

The Prime Minister’s Office, one official there told JTA, hopes Sharansky will bring to bear his “unique experience and abilities in serving as a bridge for all streams within the Jewish people” as he approaches the problem.

One potential bridge between Rabinowitz and Hoffman are Modern Orthodox rabbis who believe both in Orthodoxy and pluralism.

The Kotel “is a holy place, but needs to belong to all of Israel,” said Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, who co-founded the Modern Orthodox rabbis’ organization Tzohar. Cherlow says he isn’t throwing his backing behind any particular solution but that a time-sharing arrangement may work.

Daniel Goldman, chairman of the religious-secular nonprofit Gesher, says the only way to reach a compromise is to find figures who occupy middle ground who can foster some sort of accord.

“If Natan Sharansky could broaden the people involved in that debate beyond Rabbi Rabinowitz and Women of the Wall, it’s possible to use this issue to create a more constructive dialogue,” Goldman said. “If you get Anat Hoffman and Rabbi Rabinowitz in a room, it’s quite obvious and clear that there will be no compromise solution.”


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