Robinson's Arch
Photo: Ron Peled
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Square next to Western Wall
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Conservative Jews to pray at Western Wall

Conservative Movement withdraws Supreme Court petition claiming religious discrimination at Western Wall, after reaching agreement with several Jerusalem groups

A decade-long struggle for the right to pray at the Western Wall came to an on Wednesday when the Conservative Movement in Israel withdrew its petition regarding freedom of worship at Robinson's Arch, on the southern side of the Western Wall.


The petition was filed with the Supreme Court in 2006, following difficulties for Conservative Jews to access Robinson's Arch.


Conservative worshippers wishing to pray in mixed gender groups have been congregating at the arch, which is located in the Archeological Gardens, since 1998. This is because attempts at mixed group prayer elsewhere along the Wall were met with violence by ultra-Orthodox Jews.


Still, technically along the Western Wall, the Robinson's Arch is separated from the Temple's main square by a large dirt mound, blocking the Conservative worshippers from view and thus preventing altercations with other worshippers.


Recently, however, the Archeological Gardens restricted their visiting hours and began charging a NIS 30 fee to enter the area, seriously hindering the ability of the Conservative worshippers to get to Robinson's Arch.


'Victory for pluralistic Judaism'

As such, in the petition, the Movement claimed that their freedom of worship was being violated and that they were being discriminated against as a group.


The petition was recalled after the Movement reached an agreement with Government Secretary Yisrael Maimon, the Society for East Jerusalem Development, and the Authority for Antiquities and the Western Wall.


According to the agreement, from now on, the Movement will be granted unlimited access to Robinson's Arch, at no fee, during pre-determined Morning Prayer times from 6:00 a.m. until 9:15 a.m.


The agreement will also allow gatherings for prayer on Saturday nights (for end of Sabbath prayers), holy days, and special occasions, with special coordination in advance.


The Conservative Movement called the agreement "a victory for pluralistic Judaism in Israel and a move towards total equality among Jewish movements in Israel."


"The Conservative Movement sees this as recognition of the right for non-Orthodox worshippers to pray as they see fit at the Western Wall," said Rabbi Barry Schlesinger, President of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly in Israel.


Despite being pleased with the agreement, members of the Movement hope that, in the future, such freedom of worship will be extended to all areas of the Western Wall.


פרסום ראשון: 02.12.07, 21:23
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