Netanyahu asks Jewish Agency to look into women’s prayer at Wall
JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly asked the Jewish Agency to come up with a solution for non-Orthodox women's groups that want to pray at the Western Wall.
Netanyahu asked the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky, to examine the issue, the Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed Israeli government official.
The AP quoted Jewish Agency spokesman Benjamin Rutland as saying that Netanyahu told Sharansky that the Western Wall "must remain a source of Jewish unity rather than division."
Earlier this month, four women were detained at the Western Wall by Israeli police for trying to enter the site with prayer shawls to pray with the Women of the Wall organization.
Women of the Wall has held a special prayer service at the holy site almost each month for the last 20 years on Rosh Chodesh, or the beginning of a new Hebrew month, at the back of the women's section.
Women participating in the Rosh Chodesh service have been arrested nearly every month since June for wearing prayer shawls or for “disturbing public order.”
In 2003, Israel's Supreme Court upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin or tallit prayer shawls, or reading from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall.
"On behalf of the 1,700 Conservative rabbis who comprise our movement, the Rabbinical Assembly supports Israel in its efforts to work toward ensuring women’s equality and religious pluralism – both in the most sacred moment of prayer at the Western Wall – and throughout life in Israel. All Jews should feel welcome and be legally permitted to express their Judaism freely at this holy place we all share," Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice- president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international umbrella organization for Conservative rabbis, said in a statement issued Dec. 26.
Marcie Natan, national president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, said in a statement: "As a member of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, Hadassah looks forward to participating in this important effort and hopes that a resolution can be reached which will allow all women to pray, individually and collectively, at the Kotel freely, without harassment, and in accordance with their own religious practices."