Thursday, June 28, 2018

In Israel, New Legal Hurdles To Egalitarian Prayer Space At Western Wall

Haaretz reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plans to expand the area at the Western Wall that is available for egalitarian prayer has run into new legal and political hurdles.  Culture Minister Miri Regev announced yesterday that she is resigning as head of the ministerial committee charged with approving this expansion in the Robinson's Arch area of the Wall. (See prior related posting.)  Israel's Antiquities Law requires approval of the committee for construction at any archeological site.  Regev says that her conscience does not permit her to convene a committee to approve mixed-gender prayer.

Meanwhile, in April the right wing organization B'Tzedek sued the Antiquities Authority in the High Court of Justice contending that the Robinson's Arch expansion is illegal. Netenyahu is concerned that if expansion does not begin soon, the High Court will side with B'Tzedek, and that this will lead to the Court ruling instead that there should be an egalitarian prayer area as part of the main plaza of the Western Wall.  That would likely lead to a political crisis in Netanyahu's coalition government.

UPDATE: On July 3, Jerusalem Post reported:
A major step toward renovating the egalitarian prayer section of the Western Wall was taken Monday night, with the Knesset approving the transfer of authority over infrastructure changes to holy sites to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev.