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Prime Minister’s Office bans gender-separating barriers at Western Wall egalitarian site

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 Prime Minister’s Office prohibits the bringing of a mechitza, a gender separation barrier, into the egalitarian section of the Western Wall following a series of serious disturbances at the site.

The head of the Budgets and Projects Department of the Prime Minister’s Office, Drorit Steinmetz, writes to the director of the Company for the Development and Renovation of the Jewish Quarter, Herzl Ben Ari, instructing him to ensure anyone seeking to bring a mechitza to the site is blocked at the entrance.

Steinmetz notes that orderlies from the company should not use force to stop anyone seeking to bring in a mechitza, but should request assistance from the police in such circumstances.

Radical Orthodox activists have disturbed non-Orthodox prayers at the site on numerous occasions in recent years, including most recently last month, when they disrupted three bar and bat mitzvas and tore up a prayer book.

On other occasions, Orthodox activists have brought in a mechitza and taken control of the prayer space, which is designated for non-Orthodox and mixed-gender prayer.

The Reform Movement in Israel welcomes the step but says it will not guarantee that prayer at the site would not be disturbed in other ways, and calls for greater measures to ensure order at the prayer space.

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