The rabbi of Judaism’s holiest prayer site has endorsed a proposal to establish a section where men and women can worship together, a ground-breaking motion that could end a decades-old fight against an Orthodox monopoly of the area.
The fight over the Western Wall has reached a fever pitch in recent months, after police arrested female worshippers who prayed at the site wearing religious garments and leading prayers – acts that Orthodox Judaism permits for men only.
The arrests caused an uproar in Israel and among liberal Jewish leaders in the United States, prompting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to instruct the semi-governmental Jewish Agency to devise a plan to permit non-Orthodox forms of worship at the site.
The Western Wall’s rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovich, said yesterday that while he dislikes non-Orthodox prayer, he would tolerate it in a separate section in order to end intra-Jewish fighting at the site.
Mr Rabinovich, who is Orthodox, said: “If these things can be done at the Western Wall without hurting others, and this can bring about compromise and serenity, I don’t object.”