August 25, 2013
Today Minister of Religious Services Naftali Bennet announced his support for the Mandelblit plan, the Prime Minister’s Office committee charged with the task of solving the problem of inequality at the Western Wall.
The committee is supporting a solution in which a wooden balcony has been built on scaffolding in the middle of Robinsons Arch, an area separated by a wall and out of view from the Western Wall. The plan will effectively exile women and all Jews who pray in a way that is not ultra-Orthodox tradition to Robinson’s Arch and away from the area of the Western Wall where Jews have prayed for generations.
If this plan is accepted, the government will be excluding over 50% of Jewish population to the “back of the bus”.
Women of the Wall rejects the Mandelblit plan which dangerously circumvents the pluralist Sobel Disctrict Court decision. We are at a crossroads for religious freedom and freedom of expression in Israel. Today this effects Women of the Wall but tomorrow it will effect every Israeli and Jew around the world. What has been proven today is that the bullies were victorious- with their assault, spitting and cursing at women. Mandelblit and Bennet have given in to the threats and violence of the haredi extremist minority in Israel and this is a dangerous precedent for our democracy.
The proposed plan, the wooden stage in the center of the archaeological visitor’s center, is concerning only mixed prayer, and therefore does not provide a solution for Women of the Wall, a mixed women’s prayer section. The plan leaves control over the entire area in the hands of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, an organization run by a vast majority ultra-Orthodox men. The stage is in no way equal topographically or geographically to the original plaza, not does it come close to the Wall itself, as it stands to the back of the Robinson’s Arch area. This plan is the very definition of separate, and not nearly close to equal, it provides an out of sight- out of mind solution silencing women at the Western Wall.
We call upon Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni to demand equal rights for women to pray at the women’s section of the Western Wall. Women of the Wall is calling for a 24 hour sit-in at the holy site in the hopes that the government will reject this plan and support the District Court Decision in which all women can pray freely at the Western Wall.
For nearly twenty-five years Women of the Wall has continued to fight for religious freedom and women’s rights at the Western Wall. As Women of the Wall, our central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.