On January 31, 2016, a majority of the Israeli government adopted a resolution for the Women of the Wall: the establishment of a dignified prayer plaza in which women of the Western Wall could pray in their own way.
This proposal, known as the “Western Wall Plan,” came after a number of proposals by the Israeli government:
- Committee of Directors General: On January 26, 1994, following another hearing in the High Court of Justice, Justice Meir Shamgar suggested considering the appointment of a committee that would examine the issue in depth and reach a solution that would preserve women’s freedom of access to the Wall and reduce harm to the feelings of Haredi worshipers. On 17 May 1994, a government decision was reached to establish (2) a Ministerial Committee for Jerusalem Affairs that would find a solution to the problem within six months.
Five months later, the committee received an additional six months to submit a solution. This delay was accompanied by the High Court of Justice on behalf of Women of the Wall to issue an order nisi to understand “why they will not submit without delay their proposals to submit them to the Government of Israel by a predetermined date” and an interim order to prevent the Government of Israel from rejecting the conclusions of the Second Committee.
In spite of the petition, the submission of the conclusions was rejected for another six months, from April 2, 1996, when the committee concluded that: “The committee did not find that the time to allow prayers in a different way than the traditional way is set”.
The committee sought alternative places, such as the plaza at the foot of Robinson’s Arch, the area in front of the Hulda Gate, the Small Wall area in the Old City and the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount walls, an alternative that won most votes.
On April 21, 1996, a decision was made by the government to appoint a ministerial committee on Jerusalem affairs to examine the conclusions of the committee of directors-general and discuss ways of implementing them. Seven months later, on the 28 of November 1996, The petitioners agreed to consider an official proposal to turn Robinson’s Arch into a prayer site, while making it clear that they did not give up their right to pray at the Western Wall plaza, and that Robinson’s Arch was not a place of worship in its present state.
On June 2, 1997, the Ministerial Committee of Jerusalem Affairs decided to adopt the recommendations of the Committee of Directors General, according to which women of the Western Wall were not ready to pray at the Western Wall and recommended an alternative prayer site.
3) The Neeman Committee: On November 11, 1997, the government appointed
Finance Minister Yaakov Ne’eman to set up a committee to find a solution to the
problem. The Ne’eman Commission examined five prayer sites: the parking
area near the entrance to the Western Wall plaza, the Southern Wall, the
women’s section, the “flags plaza” (the Upper Western Wall plaza) and
Robinson Arch. The committee concluded that preparing Robinson’s Arch was
the most appropriate solution.
All three committees did not comply with the court’s instructions, which ordered that a solution be found that “will maintain the freedom of access to the Wall and reduce the harm to the worshipers’ feelings.” Therefore, the court decided to issue an absolute order “instructing the government to determine the appropriate arrangements and conditions under which the petitioners will be able to exercise their right to prayer as they do in the Western Wall plaza.”
On April 6, 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that women of the Western Wall had the right to pray at the Western Wall, but it was not a right without borders. The proper balance is to train the Robinson Arch by the government and turn the Robinson Arch into a well-ordered prayer site, and it is also determined that if a prayer site in Robinson’s request is not prepared within 12 months, the government must establish arrangements and conditions that allow the Wailing Wall women to exercise their right to prayer as they do in the Western Wall plaza.
The Kotel (Western Wall) Agreement:
On Rosh Chodesh Tevet 2012, as part of the wave of arrests that were carried out against Women of the Wall, 4 women were arrested for praying with a prayer shawl. This arrest, which continued to attract public pressure in Israel and abroad, led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to understand the importance of a quick and fair solution to the issue of Women of the Wall. Thus, Chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky was appointed to find a solution to the problem.
On April 10, 2013, Natan Sharansky presented his solution to the issue of the Western Wall: the preparation of a new and dignified prayer plaza next to the existing plaza where non-Orthodox communities can pray without a barrier and where Women of the Wall can pray there as they do with a partition.
The third section will include raising it so that it is at the height of the existing expansion and there will be one entrance to the three extensions (pluralist section, the women’s section and the men’s section).
In August 2013, Avichai Mandelblit, the government secretary, presented an additional plan aimed at ending the long dispute over the right of women of the Western Wall and the non-Orthodox streams to pray as they do at the Western Wall. Mandelblit offers an egalitarian prayer plaza of about 400 square meters in the Robinson Arch compound, where people can pray without the regulation of Rabbis, including reading the Torah and wearing a prayer shawl by women.
The new plan is a partial withdrawal from the plan of Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, which was widely accepted by Jewish communities in Israel and the U.S. Mandelblit’s plan, which was supported by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, is defined as an interim solution to the dispute over the Western Wall. This interim plan will fit 450 worshipers at a time, and will be far from the stones of the main Western Wall, which is not as dignified as Natan Sharansky suggested.
Women of the Wall submitted a list of requirements for the new space proposed by Mandelblit. One of the requirements was that they continue to pray at the Women’s Section until the establishment of a third plaza, which will be in accordance with the beliefs and wishes of the worshipers of all denominations.
On January 31, 2016, after three years of negotiations, the Israeli government voted to establish a third, pluralistic plaza. The meeting was attended by representatives of the Israeli government, the rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the Women of the Wall, the heads of the Conservative and Reform movements, the Jewish Agency and others. The ultra-Orthodox parties expressed tacit approval. However, ultra-Orthodox lay people were furious at the decision and organized demonstrations to put pressure on the Rabinowitz to withdraw his support from the plan. The ultra-Orthodox parties, which demanded the cancellation of the plan and even threatened to leave the government if they did not do so, did so, and the outline of the Western Wall was frozen until June 25, 2017, when it was officially canceled.