Women of the Wall Issues New Demands

YERUSHALAYIM -

The Women of the Wall, a group that comes each Rosh Chodesh to the Kosel and demands that it be allowed to daven with talleisim, tefillin and a sefer Torah in the women’s section, has staked out a negotiating position ahead of a meeting with cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit to solve the ongoing dispute.

In September, Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett arranged a separate raised plaza to serve as an area where egalitarian services could be held at Robinson’s Arch, somewhat south of the Kosel wall.

Women of the Wall chair Anat Hoffman said they would agree to congregate in a separate plaza if the area will form one contiguous space, touching the Kosel itself, accessible from the main plaza and be the same height as the plaza, The Jerusalem Post reported.

They also want it to be open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and that a special administrative body be established to oversee the arrangement, consisting of people sympathetic to their cause. The Kosel Plaza is managed by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

If all the demands are met, the group says it will no longer insist on access to the women’s section of the main Kosel plaza.

They also demanded that the government put a halt to “[chareidi] leaders who are organizing demonstrations against Women of the Wall.”

The conditions spelled out by Hoffman elicited a sharp reaction from Women for the Wall, a group fighting to preserve the holiness of the Kosel site.

“The very idea that a group that can hardly muster 100 women on a good month should dictate to the government how to run the Kosel plaza is mindboggling,” said Ronit Peskin, Director of Women for the Wall.

In a statement released on Monday, Peskin said that “Women of the Wall’s demands also include an anti-democratic ban on other organized groups, as well as a permanent cap on the size of the area for traditional prayer — along with the “right” to arrange for women to sing in the plaza immediately behind the men’s section without restriction.”