JERUSALEM – Women of the Wall is close to approving an agreement with the Israeli government to move the group’s monthly prayer service to a new egalitarian area. The report Monday in Haaretz was corroborated on the organization’s Facebook page. The agreement comes after months of negotiations between the organization and an Israeli government committee. In October, the Women of the Wall presented 16 conditions under which the group would move its monthly prayer service to an egalitarian section of the Western Wall’s plaza now under construction.
The conditions pertain to the section’s size, appearance, management, accessibility, budget and name. Taken together, the conditions mandate that the new section be treated as equal to the existing Western Wall plaza. Women of the Wall chairwoman Anat Hoffman said in a letter sent to key supporters of the organization that a special government committee headed by Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mendelblit had agreed to most of the conditions, reported Haaretz, which obtained a copy of the letter.
The letter reportedly said the committee’s recommendations would be submitted to the Cabinet for approval in the coming weeks and that the egalitarian area would be ready in “a year or more,” Haaretz reported. The site will have a mobile, temporary mechitza (barrier between men and women) for the monthly prayer services since some of the members are Orthodox and do not pray with men, according to the letter.The committee also reportedly agreed to allow group members to jointly oversee administration of the egalitarian space, according to Haaretz. Hoffman said in the letter that the group will continue to work to gain permission to bring its own Torah scroll to the site once the negotiations are completed.
She also said, according to Haaretz, that the group will continue to pray in the women’s section “until the full implementation of the report’s agreed-upon recommendations.” A group of Women of the Wall supporters, mostly from the United States, have split off over the negotiations.
The women have named their splinter organization Original Women of the Wall, or O-WOW, and plan to hold their own services at the Wall.