Kotel Egalitarian Prayer Plan Set in Motion by Dramatic Western Wall Compromise

Sharansky Promises 'One Western Wall for One Jewish People'

Kotel Drama: Natan Sharansky came up with the proposal to split the Western Wall into Orthodox and egalitarian prayer sections. He needed some help to get it across the finish line.
getty images
Kotel Drama: Natan Sharansky came up with the proposal to split the Western Wall into Orthodox and egalitarian prayer sections. He needed some help to get it across the finish line.

By Nathan Guttman and Jane Eisner

Published April 10, 2013, issue of April 19, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 4)

The biggest compromise in accepting Sharansky’s outline was made by Women of the Wall, who argue that they should be allowed to wear prayer shawls and read from the Torah in the women’s section at the Wall. Under this plan, such prayer would be allowed only in the egalitarian section. But Anat Hoffman, the group’s leader, is supporting the Sharansky plan.

“It’s not everything we were hoping for, but we will compromise. You don’t always have to be right, you have to be smart, and compromise is a sign of maturity and understanding what’s at stake here,” Hoffman told the Forward.

Reform and Conservative activists raised concerns over the short-term situation at the Wall. Even if Sharansky’s plan is adopted, implementation is expected to take at least two years and perhaps much longer, and leaders of the non-Orthodox denominations are seeking assurances that in the interim, women will not be subjected to arrests while praying at the Wall.

Other significant obstacles also put in question the plan’s feasibility.

It now needs the approval of the Israeli government, and although the new coalition in Israel excludes members of the ultra-Orthodox parties, Netanyahu will need a great deal of political will to push the plan through the Cabinet and the Knesset.

American Orthodox leaders have chosen to keep a low profile on the issue. Agudath Israel announced that it will defer to its “highest religious authorities in Israel,” which in the past rejected giving Reform and Conservative streams a foothold in the holy places.

The Orthodox Union decided not to oppose the plan and chose to focus on the benefits of ending the dispute. Rabbi Steven Weil, the group’s executive vice president, listed the many threats facing Israel and the Jewish people, and expressed his hope that “Jews across the world can focus on these issues and not expend our energies on intra-Jewish hostility and rancor.”

Beyond political barriers, the Sharansky plan faces other obstacles: Expanding the Kotel plaza toward Robinson’s Arch will require building within an archaeological site, a process that could require lengthy excavation work; it could also run into geopolitical sensitivities, since expanding the plaza will involve changes to the MugHrabi Bridge leading to the Temple Mount.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.