Mixed genders at Western Wall

By Yourway-to-israel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Women of the Wall negotiated officially recognizing the prayer site as mixed-gender.

The Government of Israel has given its seal of approval to expand the non-orthodox and mixed gender prayer section located at the Jerusalem's Western Wall. The new area, known as Azarat Yisrael, is scheduled to be positioned at the southernmost corner of the Western Wall beneath Robinson's Arch. It has been often used for the purpose of egalitarian prayer services. American Jews, in particular, are celebrating this development.

The Western Wall is considered the second holiest site in the Jewish religion after Temple Mount. It is an ancient architecture of second Jewish Temple. Romans destroyed the temple in 66 CE. The decision will result in, among many other things, allowing women to read a Torah scroll. In a joint statement, the Jewish Federations of North America and Reform and Conservative movements said in a new statement that the new space is a critical, dramatic and unprecedented acknowledgment by Israel that the holy site must incorporate traditions of both Reform and Masorti or Conservative streams where both sexes pray together.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, were at the forefront of talks when it came to negotiating the officially recognized mixed gender space. He was urged to do so by Women of the Wall, a feminist prayer group and U.S. Jews belonging to non-Orthodox denominations.

The Orthodox establishment of Israel has marginalized both the groups. The Israeli government gives no recognition to authority of the Reform and Conservative rabbis along with their institutions. They only get nominal funding.

As per agreement, the part governmental Jewish Agency and the Israeli Government will offer the majority of $8.8 million budget spread over a period of two years. The soon to be bigger prayer space will come under the joint administration of a new body including Conservative and Reform movements and Women of the Wall. It will be headed by the chairman of the Jewish agency. According to all parties, the deal was compulsory as the main, northern part of the Western wall was overseen by ultra-Orthodox religious bodies. They refuse everything and accept only strictest interpretation of the Jewish law.

The group which calls itself Women of the Wall, and who fights for the right to pray at the holiest accessible site in Judaism, welcomed the decision of the cabinet. It said that through this action, the state has acknowledged autonomy and full equality at the Wall.

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