Women of the Wall : “We’re Happy To Finally Be Able to Share the Kotel”

Women of the Wall At Kotel Following Section Decision For Third Prayer Section Women of the Wall conducted a press conference at the Western Wall following the Cabinet's announcement that a third prayer section would be established at the Western Wall, for pluralistic groups like Women of the Wall.

Women of the Wall : “We’re Happy To Finally Be Able to Share the Kotel”

Written by Jonathan Benedek/TPS on February 01, 2016

Jerusalem (TPS) – Prime Minister Netanyahu and the cabinet approved the establishment of a third prayer section at Israel’s Western Wall yesterday that will be located directly south of Israel’s current Western Wall plaza. There are currently two separate sections for men and women respectively, and pluralistic religious groups have been pushing for a change in policy for many years.

“In an ideal Israel, we would have never had to do any of this because in an ideal Israel, women would have full rights in the women’s section and there would be no coercion of one denomination over another,” Women of the Wall’s Director of Public Relations Shira Pruce told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).

Women of the Wall is an organization of women in Israel that has been fighting since 1988 for the right to not only conduct prayer services at the Western Wall but also to don religious garments there that have traditionally only been worn by men, such as the “tallit” [a prayer shawl].

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Women of the Wall had been restricted by Jerusalem police from praying with such garments at the Western Wall for many years even though the prayer services would be conducted in the women’s section. However, a court ruling in April, 2013 found that Women of the Wall had no obligation to comply with such a standard, and the group conducted a service at the Western Wall  on May 10, 2013 with many of the participants wearing religious garments without fear of arrest.

The arrangement announced yesterday by the cabinet is just a step in the right direction as far as Pruce and Women of the Wall are concerned.

“This agreement itself is just a step because it has not been implemented yet at all,” Pruce stressed to TPS. “Unfortunately, as we know in Israel, these processes can take time and face many roadblocks, and we’ve already heard many ministers and other politicians in the last few days say that they would use their power to stop this from ever happening.”

Implementation of initiatives and bills in Israel even after becoming law in the Knesset are often stymied and even completely halted by Israel’s dynamic system of government. Coalitions frequently collapse leading to a new government with entirely new agreements and arrangements.

As Pruce mentioned, ministers such as MK Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) have expressed strong opposition to the arrangement. Pruce and Women of the Wall will continue to hope and wait for full implementation of yesterday’s agreement.

“It is written in the agreement that Women of the Wall is not going to leave the women’s section until the new section is completed in its entirety,” continued Pruce. “If and when we move there, it will be to a completed prayer section that is ready for a group such as ours.”

Women of the Wall’s continued determination is founded upon the organization’s belief in religious pluralism. “Women of the Wall is pluralist to the core and that is our driving force,” Pruce explained to TPS.

Pruce added that as a part of that spirit of pluralism, Women of the Wall would never intrude on the space and rights of other religious groups in Israel.

“Women of the Wall would never go into an ultra-Orthodox synagogue and violate their place and do something that might offend the people who own the synagogue or are members of the synagogue and the community,” Pruce said.

“But the Western Wall is not a synagogue and is not private,” argued Pruce to TPS.  “It is a public place that is supposed to be for all Jews and is a spiritual site at which nobody has a monopoly over spirituality, holiness, and our connection to our ancestors and history.”

Many critics have accused Women of the Wall of having alternative motives and of only being a source of provocation and conflict. Pruce completely rejected such an assertion and claim.

“If anyone comes to our services, what they’ll see is that we are only there to pray,” Pruce insisted. “We don’t believe in creating conflict at the Kotel [Western Wall]. It’s a holy place and a prayer site where we come to pray and we’re so happy to share it with whoever wants to share it with us.”

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