Archeologists Slam Construction at Western Wall for Egalitarian Prayer Deal

New construction aimed at providing a space for non-Orthodox prayer at the Western Wall would damage “the most important archaeological site for the Jewish people,” a group of Israeli archaeologists said.

In a letter to Benjamin Netanyahu, nine senior archaeologists urged the prime minister to abort plans for construction, the Times of Israel reported.

The proposed construction, which would expand an area south of the main Western Wall prayer site, providing access for mixed-gender prayer, is part of a compromise announced last week to resolve tensions between liberal Jews and Israel’s Orthodox establishment.

The Western Wall, the retaining wall and last surviving remnant of the Second Temple, is the holiest site in Judaism. The Temple Mount where the First and Second Temples once stood, is one of Islam’s holiest sites and home to al-Aqsa Mosque. The area has been a flashpoint for Jewish-Muslim tensions, with rumors in October that Israel planned to change the status quo there sparking an ongoing upsurge of violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

According to the Times of Israel, Dan Bahat, who excavated the Western Wall tunnels; Ronny Reich, head of the Archaeological Council of Israel, who exposed part of the paved road beneath Robinson’s Arch; Jerusalem Prize winner Gabriel Barkay, who directs the Temple Mount Sifting Project, and Israel Prize laureate Amihai Mazar were among the signatories to the letter.

The construction plan has been approved by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, but been criticized by haredi Orthodox groups.

Palestinian Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs Youssef Ideiss also objected to the plan, saying it would violate the status-quo agreement governing the Temple Mount area.

Author

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires 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 and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. 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 Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Archeologists Slam Construction at Western Wall for Egalitarian Prayer Deal

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close