From day one, Failedmessiah.com reported that the proposal by Natan Sharansky to create and egalitarian Western Wall prayer area to the south of the Kotel proper equal in size, importance and visibility to the Kotel proper would never take place. I explained why. And now even the non-Orthodox leaders who fell for Sharansky's ruse have been forced to admit FailedMessiah.com was right.
Disingenuous Deal To Create Equal Egalitarian Prayer Space At The Kotel Almost Dead
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
From day one, Failedmessiah.com reported that the proposal by Natan Sharansky to create and egalitarian Western Wall prayer area to the south of the Kotel proper equal in size, importance and visibility to the Kotel proper would never take place.
I pointed out that security factors would block the necessary changes to the holy site necessary to make Sharansky’s comical proposal work. I also pointed out the Muslim Waqf, which controls the Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount, would never allow the construction, and Jordan, which controls the Waqf (at least on paper) would likely never approve it, either.
Non-Orthodox groups, eager to get the Kotel exposure they have long lacked, rushed to accept Sharansky’s plan, and the plan was adopted by the government.
For the past two years or so, under government auspices the non-Orthodox groups (including Women of the Wall, which has some Orthodox members and founders), have been negotiating with the government and through the government with haredim to reach a final plan for who the extended Kotel plaza would look.
Haredim – at least those who are willing to allow it to be built – want the new egalitarian part of the plaza to be clearly separate from the Kotel proper and out of sight from it.
Sharansky’s plan calls for the two areas to be made contiguous and to be of equal prominence. The plan further calls for all visitors to the Kotel to enter though a unified set of entrances from which they would be able to proceed to the prayer area of their choice. Haredim vehemently oppose this.
But that doesn’t really matter because the Sharansky plan was a non-starter from the beginning. And now that there’s a bonafide security crisis to hang it on, the plan’s fatal flaws have finally become widely known.
Asked by Ha’aretz to estimate the chances of the egalitarian plaza being built now that these flaws are clear to all, a source active in negotiations reportedly put the odds of completion at 20%.
“[It’s] 80-20 that it’s not going to happen,” the source said.
Women of the Wall’s chairwoman Anat Hoffman, who also is a leader in the Reform Movement, is even less optimistic.
“You can call these the final nails in the coffin,” Hoffman reportedly said.
But that coffin was built and almost completely nailed shut before Sharansky – likely deceptively – offered the plan to Women of the Wall and the non-Orthodox groups 2-1/2 years ago.
In a closely related issue, two weeks ago an Israeli court gave control of the archaeological site at Robinson’s Arch that surrounds the proposed egalitarian prayer plaza to Elad, a right-wing pro-settler organization, when it upheld the government’s decision to give Elad the site to manage. The government made that decision even though it refused to give control over the egalitarian prayer are to the non-Orthodox movements, claiming its policy was private organizations – like, for example, Elad or the Reform Movement – couldn’t control sites at the Kotel.
“We were told that the non-Orthodox movements couldn’t be in charge of the egalitarian space because the whole area by the Western Wall is too important to be handed over to private organizations. If that’s the case, why are they handing over control of the whole archaeological park to a private organization?” a delegate to the negotiations, with the government, who asked not to be named, told Ha’aretz.
Women of the Wall’s Hoffman, who split her organization by accepting the Sharansky plan, which she strongly backed, now claims not have been a strong supporter of it, and she wants her group to drop it entirely.
“Let’s take the [two] existing segregated spaces” – i.e., the existing men’s section and women’s section at the Kotel proper – “and divide them into three sections, instead of two. Rather then giving two-thirds to the men, like you have now, we should divide it into three equal parts – one for men, one for women, and one for egalitarian prayer services,” Hoffman said.
Unlike Hoffman, the other members of the negotiating team are sticking it out.
The reform and Conservative movements still hold out hope the negotiations with the government will bear fruit, and they haven’t – yet – walked away from the table. But this may have more to do with the government playing one non-Orthodox group against the other than anything else.
For his part, through a spokesman Sharansky claimed to be hard at work trying to reach an unreachable, impossible deal.
“We’ve been working hard to bring about a wide-ranging political consensus,” Sharansky’s spokesman said.