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.
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.
Israeli women wearing prayer shawls pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Aug 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
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