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Key Israeli Government Minister Drops Support For Egalitarian Prayer At Kotel

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli government minister whose approval is needed to advance the plan for the Western Wall’s egalitarian section has dropped her support for the proposal.

Miri Regev, the culture and sport minister, announced in a Facebook post late Wednesday that she would not approve the plan in her position as chairwoman of the Knesset Committee for Holy Places. The chair’s permission is necessary to advance the plan.

Regev wrote in her Facebook post: “In the past months I have been torn. My conscience would not let me rest. I could not approve the Western Wall plan in a manner that would upset the status quo. The Reform Movement’s demand to turn the Wall into a place where men and women pray together is unacceptable to me or to Jewish tradition.”

Plans to renovate the site, with a budget of more than $7 million, have continued, despite the suspension of a comprehensive plan approved in 2016. Regev had voted to approve the comprehensive plan.

Natan Sharansky, the outgoing chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel and a key architect of the plan, criticized Regev for her change of heart.

“Minister Regev’s conscience is her own matter, but her public about-face regarding the need to set established prayer practices at the site is most regrettable,” he said in a statement. “I hope the Prime Minister brings about the completion of the expanded prayer area known as Ezrat Yisrael, as he has repeatedly promised the Jewish people in Israel and abroad that he would.”

In June 2017, the Cabinet suspended the deal as a result of negotiations between the Reform and Conservative movements, the Women of the Wall, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government. The suspension came after the government’s haredi Orthodox coalition partners pressured Netanyahu to scrap the agreement, including threatening to bring down the government.

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