For the first time ever, Women of the Wall (WoW) will hold a selichot (penitential) prayer service at the Kotel (Western Wall). WoW normally only holds services once each month for 11 of the 12 months of the year.
Women of the Wall To Hold Selichot Prayers At Kotel
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
For the first time ever, Women of the Wall (WoW) will hold a selichot (penitential) prayer service at the Kotel (Western Wall). WoW normally only holds services once each month for 11 of the 12 months of the year. (It does not hold a separate women’s service on Rosh HaShana, the Jewish new year.) The selichot service will be held from 10 pm to 1 am September 1, Ha’aretz reported.
Selichot services are traditionally held daily, except for Shabbat, in the month prior to Rosh HaShana for Sefardim and the week before for Ashkenazim. Many communities continue those penitential prayers in the days between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.
It is unclear how police and haredim will react to WoW’s decision, which it reportedly made because of pressure from newer members who did not want to go two months without a communal prayer.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s point man on the Kotel crisis, Natan Sharansky, said yesterday that he expects to announce his full plan for dealing with competing prayer needs at the holy site in two weeks.
Sharansky reportedly wants to see a joint authority made up of representatives of the government, the Jewish Agency and diaspora communities set the prayer rules for the new egalitarian prayer space he’s proposing, while haredim and Zionist Orthodox rabbis can continue to control the existing prayer area run by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation (this area would be strictly gender segregated).
Sharansky admits that division of authority might have to wait, though. However, 24/7 access to the archeological excavation area at the southern end of the Western Wall, known as Robinson’s Arch, could be implemented immediately, he reportedly said. It is this distant area, far away from the traditional Kotel area and far from the former location of the Jerusalem Temples, is where the government and Sharansky expect egalitarian prayers to take place.
Sharansky wants to build a platform to cover those archeological excavations so that the existing gender-segregated areas and the new egalitarian areas are on the same level, both with equal square footage.
This would not solve the problem of the ramp to the Temple Mount proper that serves as a complete barrier between the two areas and would continue to do so even if the Robinson’s Arch prayer area is raised higher.
Many archaeologists are opposed to the government’s plan for Robinson’s Arch and it is very likely the Waqf, the Muslim authority that runs the Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount, will oppose it, as well.