Netanyahu Approves Renovations of Kotel Mixed Prayer Plaza

According to Israel’s Antiquities Law, any work on a religious site requires the approval of the ministerial committee
Reform female and male rabbis pray together at Robinson's Arch, the Western Wall site slated for future egalitarian services, on Thursday, February 25, 2016. (Y.R/Reform Movement)

Last week, the Holy Sites Committee approved the renovation of the mixed prayer area at the Western Wall, ending a political crisis that broke out yet again last month, Walla reported Wednesday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who replaced Minister Miri Regev as chair of the committee, along with Minister Yuval Steinitz, who replaced Minister Ayelet Shaked, approved the work. Minister of Religious Services David Azoulay (Shas), who asked to resign from the committee, did not participate in the vote.

This renovation will cover the existing prayer area for men and women at Robinson’s Arch at the Western Wall, intended for Reform and Conservative Jews, as part of the Western Wall plan adopted by the government in 2016. After the plan was canceled last year, Netanyahu ordered that the expansion of the area dedicated to the non-Orthodox denominations be speeded up.

According to Israel’s Antiquities Law, any work on a religious site requires the approval of the ministerial committee, which includes the minister of religious services, the minister of justice and the minister in charge of the Israel Antiquities Authority, which happens to be Minister of Culture and Sports Miri Regev. But Regev refused to approve the work, under pressure from Haredi elements in the Likud, and her vote was therefore transferred to the prime minister.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked also gave in to pressure from within her own party, Habayit Hayehudi, and asked to be released from her membership in the committee. Minister Steinitz was the only Likud minister who agreed to handle this hot potato and helped the PM resolve the troublesome affair.

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