Activists Fume Over Quick Fix in Western Wall Gender Fight

Plaza offers site for mixed prayer

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 26, 2013 11:33 AM CDT

(Newser) – Jerusalem's Western Wall has been embroiled in controversy over prayer rules tied to gender, and the latest attempt at a solution is rubbing many the wrong way. Backed by the Israeli minister for Jerusalem, Naftali Bennett, a new, 4800-square-foot prayer plaza is meant to offer an equal-opportunity praying location, the New York Times reports. Bennett calls it a "compromise ... to unify all the walks of Jewish life" ahead of a long-term solution.

But Women of the Wall, an activist group fighting for expanded prayer rights for women at the site, has launched a 24-hour sit-in against the plaza. It's a "second-rate Wall for second-rate Jews," says the leader of the group, Anat Hoffman, per the Times of Israel. Her organization is battling to pray at the main women's section of the wall; members have previously been arrested for praying in men's traditional shawls. Reform and Conservative Jewish leaders, however, say the plaza is a move in the right direction. "It’s a very, very small step—very modest," says a Reform rabbi.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man argues with a police officer as he protests during a prayer organized by the "Women of the Wall" organization, Aug. 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Israeli women wearing prayer shawls pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Aug 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
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