"We call upon Tzipi Livni Minister of Justice to reject this plan, 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 Western Wall 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."
Women of the Wall has reacted sharply to Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett's unilateral decision to ignore a Jerusalem District Court ruling – a ruling already accepted by Israel's attorney general – and exile Women of the Wall to an unequal prayer space at Robinson's Arch, out of sight of the main Kotel prayer area:
Women of the Wall react to Bennet’s support of the Mendelblit Plan
Today Minister of Religious Services Naftali Bennet announced his support for the Mendelblit 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 Robinson’s 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 Mendelblit 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. Mendelblit 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 Tzipi Livni Minister of Justice to reject this plan, 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 Western Wall 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.
What Women of the Wall probably does not know is that the Conservative Movement, headed by Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, is accepting the Mandleblit plan and is essentially selling out Women of the Wall and Orthodox feminists, along with everyone who wants the Western Wall run by the government as a national heritage site and not as a haredi synagogue.
The Conservative Movement is also essentially claiming that the Conservative Movement has driven the decades-long fight for equality at the Kotel – which is a significant misrepresentation of the facts.
I pointed that out when I was contacted about this by the Conservative Movement on Friday and I also pointed out that their offer to interview Schonfeld Saturday night of today would never come to pass because Schonfeld would never agree to it.
Sure enough, the Conservative Movement's PR person did not get back to me to set up the interview he offered.
Update 1:13 pm CDT – Ha'aretz has now posted a story that clearly shows that what I have been reporting for months – that Natan Sharansky is dishonest and working to marginalize Women of the Wall and Orthodox feminists – is true:
…On Sunday afternoon, Bennett released a statement saying he was responsible for the Western Wall plan. The solution "aims to express the unity of the nation," Bennett wrote, adding that he seeks to reach a compromise on the matter by Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. The minister noted that the plan was devised in collaboration with Sharansky.
Sharansky, in turn, released a statement in which he "congratulated" Bennett for the initiative.
“This temporary prayer plaza is a gesture of goodwill on behalf of Minister Bennett towards Judaism’s religious streams," he said. "It is my hope that this step can be helpful in creating an atmosphere of good will and trust.”…
[Mendelblit’s] proposal differs from Sharansky’s, which suggested that the egalitarian worship area occupy most of the archaeological park and allow access to the stones of the Western Wall. Although Sharansky’s plan garnered praise, the archaeologists who run the site firmly opposed it, while others took issue with construction work at the sacred site. Mendelblit’s proposal, which involves only part of the area, gives non-Orthodox worshippers minimal access to the Western Wall stones.…
Judge Sobel’s ruling has not been enforced in recent months because of ultra-Orthodox protests against Women of the Wall, but the women’s rights group is unlikely back down from its demand to worship in the women’s section now that the ruling has been handed down. Women of the Wall had expressed reservations about Sharansky’s plan, which is broader than the one Mendelblit was expected to unveil, meaning it probably won’t accept the Hauser-Mendelblit proposal either. The Reform Movement in Israel and the United States will almost certainly not accept it. It is not clear how the Conservative Movement, which for all practical purposes runs the Southern Wall area, will respond to the plan, which expands and improves the worship options in the area.…
As for the Conservative Movement, what I reported above is more current than the information Ha'aretz has. The Conservative Movement is selling out Women of the Wall and Orthodox feminists – the people who have carried this fight month in and month out for 25 years – to get an enhanced Conservative-controlled synagogue at Robinson's Arch.