ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Government tells High Court it will keep developing egalitarian section at Western Wall

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

The egalitarian plaza at the Western Wall, known as 'Robinson's Arch' or 'Ezrat Yisrael,' seen on December 30, 2021, in Jerusalem's Old City. (Amy Spiro/Times of Israel)
The egalitarian plaza at the Western Wall, known as 'Robinson's Arch' or 'Ezrat Yisrael,' seen on December 30, 2021, in Jerusalem's Old City. (Amy Spiro/Times of Israel)

The government tells the High Court of Justice that it is working to fix and improve the egalitarian section of the Western Wall, in response to a number of petitions to the court by feminist and religious activist groups.

In an extended update to the court, the government says it still plans to implement a 2017 decision to “build and formalize” the southern section of the Western Wall, also known as Ezrat Yisrael or Robinson’s Arch, which is used by non-Orthodox denominations of Judaism for mixed-gender prayers.

The update is issued in response to seven petitions to the High Court regarding the Western Wall — some from liberal organizations and some from conservative groups — that have been filed over the past decade, in which the government has been successfully arguing that it needs more time to resolve due to the complexities of the issues.

The section currently exists in something of a legal gray zone, technically under the authority of the ultra-Orthodox chief rabbi of the Western Wall but permitted to operate as an egalitarian prayer space by prime ministerial order.

The government says it intends to maintain the 2017 decision to halt the implementation of the so-called Western Wall compromise, which would have formalized the status of the egalitarian section, but to also improve the infrastructure at the site. To that end, the government’s attorneys say the cabinet is working to obtain planning permission for further construction at the site and is working to remove stones that fell in 2018 and continue to block direct access to the Western Wall at the section.

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