Women of Wall Deeply Split Over Anat Hoffman's Acceptance of Prayer Deal

How Close to Kotel Is Close Enough?

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By Nathan Jeffay

Published October 24, 2013, issue of November 01, 2013.
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The so-called Mandelblit Plan is expected to be released before the end of the year, and key decisions are currently being made about the extent to which it will follow follows Sharansky’s ambitious ideas for the egalitarian section, and the extent to which it will be a watered down version of those plans.

WOW’s leadership believes that its offer to leave the Kotel’s women’s section, effectively ending the conflict between the Haredim and the feminists, is a bargaining chip that will allow it to secure Sharansky’s plan in a more or less unadulterated form. For example, WOW says that it will only move if the egalitarian plaza is the same size as the existing prayer site, receives equal funding, and can be accessed through the same plaza as the Orthodox-dominated section.

While Sharansky has suggested these conditions, and the major streams of American Judaism have signed on, Mandelblit is under no obligation to accept them. WOW spokeswoman Shira Pruce told the Forward that her group is also demanding some conditions that were not part of the Sharansky plan, but declined to state what they are.

For Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of WOW, the opportunity for the group to be involved in planning awaiting her group in the egalitarian section was too good to miss. “It’s as if the Alabama bus company would invite Rosa Parks for a consultation on how to run the company in future,” she said.

But in return for WOW’s involvement in the process, the government expects an understanding that the push to accept women reading Torah and wearing prayer shawls in the Kotel’s women’s section will stop.

“I think ultimately the process will lead to one Kotel section having official Orthodox status and the other having egalitarian status,” said a government source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.

If WOW cannot rein in its rebels, it could find itself excluded from consultations regarding the new egalitarian section, as it would be unable to guarantee to the government that the standoff between the Haredim and the feminists is over.

“If they are going to continue as before the whole concept falls down,” said Israel Kimhi, director of the Jerusalem desk at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies.

For their part, the dissenters are insistent that they won’t back down, claiming that leaving the women’s section would be akin to saying that the struggles of recent years have been in vain.


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