Jewish Agency Holds ‘Town Hall’ Conversation on Women’s Kotel Prayer Services

A town hall style conversation was held yesterday at The Jewish Agency’s Board of Governor’s Committee of the Unity of the Jewish People. The open session was called for the express purpose of gathering information to assist Natan Sharansky in his task of formulating new recommendations concerning prayer at the Kotel that will be presented to the Prime Minister. All present expressed a desire to resolve the current tensions and simultaneously provide respect for all who choose to worship at the Kotel.

The approximately two dozen speakers hailed from across the religious streams and the world (including several Israelis). They mostly echoed similar themes, first and foremost that the Kotel belongs to all Jews.

Several speakers tied the Kotel monopoly by the ultra-Orthodox to the broader issue of women’s rights in Israel and how that issue, in particular, is playing unfavorably in the diaspora media.

There was clearly an imbalance of views in the room with not one speaker defending the status quo.

As the purpose of the session was, in the words of Committee chair Shoel Silver, to allow those present to “express views, vent …”, no motions were entertained as recommendations.

With Israeli media suggesting that Shas is about to sign a coalition agreement with the Prime Minister, one cannot help but wonder if this well-meaning discussion is all for naught.

In other news from  yesterday’s Board meeting, Natan Sharansky was elected to a 2nd four year term as Chair of the Executive.