Benjamin Netanyahu Faces Political Risks With Plan for Western Wall

Premier Cannot Push Ultra-Orthodox Too Far

Risky Move: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu risks further alienating ultra-Orthodox Jews with plan for mixed-gender prayer at the Western Wall.
getty images
Risky Move: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu risks further alienating ultra-Orthodox Jews with plan for mixed-gender prayer at the Western Wall.

By Reuters

Published April 10, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to consider liberalising access to Judaism’s Western Wall, officials said on Wednesday, citing concern that police-enforced Orthodox controls on women worshippers alienate Jews abroad.

A compromise proposed by a Netanyahu envoy would expand the Jerusalem prayer site’s plaza, where worshippers are segregated by sex in accordance with Orthodox ritual practice, to add a mixed-gender section for other denominations of Judaism.

The plan poses risks for Netanyahu: further alienation of ultra-Orthodox Jews, whose representatives have been excluded from his new government, and a possible backlash by Palestinians against changes at the site, below the al-Aqsa mosque compound.

The envoy, former Israeli cabinet minister Natan Sharansky, sought backing for the idea from Jewish leaders in the United States this week and would present it to Netanyahu upon his return, officials said.

A vestige of two Roman-era Jewish temples, the Western Wall came under Israel’s control in the 1967 Middle East war when it captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

As one of Judaism’s holiest sites, it is the focus of worship and life-cycle events for world Jewry, but ceremonies are by law kept Orthodox - a doctrine dominant among religious Israelis but which has only minority following in the diaspora.

The rift has been laid bare by a group called “Women of the Wall”, which includes Americans, and whose monthly attempts to conduct Jewish rites which are an Orthodox male preserve at the site have brought a police crackdown.

Netanyahu, a secular right-winger, is wary of losing diaspora support for Israel at a time of mounting international pressure over its stalled peacemaking with the Palestinians, an official briefed on Sharansky’s mission told Reuters.

“There is no doubt that’s why Netanyahu asked Sharansky to find a compromise,” said the official, who asked not to be identified before the proposal was formally announced.


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!
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • 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.