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Orthodox Rabbis Demand Western Wall compromise

— An Orthodox rabbinical organization joined the call by non-Orthodox Jewish groups in demanding the implementation of a compromise at the Western Wall.

The International Rabbinic Fellowship, which was founded seven years ago by Orthodox rabbis in the United States, Canada, South America and Israel, issued its statement Thursday following the latest friction at the Western Wall over women’s prayer at the Jerusalem holy site.

“We are in agreement with the recent statement of the Beit Hillel rabbinic organization in Israel that calls upon the government to implement the ‘Kotel Plan’ compromise developed last year by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and approved by the Israeli cabinet in January 2016,” the rabbinical group wrote following Wednesday’s shoving and verbal clashes between haredi Orthodox and protesters for egalitarian worship.

An agreement announced in January would expand the egalitarian section at the wall and place it under the authority of a pluralist committee while solidifying haredi control over the site’s traditional Orthodox section. Women of the Wall and other egalitarian groups would move to the non-Orthodox section once the deal is implemented.

The plan and compromise “can be improved upon,” the International Rabbinic Fellowship wrote in its statement, including by “creating a space for Orthodox women’s groups that do not want to engage in full egalitarian prayer but do want to read from the Torah.” But, the statement said, the deal is nonetheless “a positive step forward to making the Kotel a public place where all Jews can experience the presence of the Divine according to the dictates of their conscience.”

The agreement was negotiated among Women of the Wall, the site’s haredi Orthodox leadership, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Israeli government, and the Reform and Conservative movements. All parties praised the decision as path breaking at the time, though it was never implemented.

The religious partners backed away from the deal and in June, a group of Orthodox Jewish organizations filed a petition with Israel’s Supreme Court to prevent the establishment of the egalitarian section.

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