Israel Suspends Plan for Egalitarian Prayer Area at Western Wall

The iconic wall in Jerusalem’s contested Old City, a potent symbol for Jews around the world and a place for quiet reflection, has become the focal point in recent years of a battle over rituals between the strictly Orthodox authorities who control most religious life in Israel and the more diverse and liberal communities here and abroad.

American Jewish leaders, who had long chafed at the strictly Orthodox control of the ancient site, with its segregated men’s and women’s sections, had hailed the cabinet decision of January 2016 as “historic.”

But the prospects of it being fulfilled did not look good from the start. The ultra-Orthodox parties opposed it from the outset, and the original cabinet resolution lacked details and sidestepped any formal recognition of non-Orthodox religious branches in Israel.

After months of stalling by the government, the Reform and Conservative movements, along with Women of the Wall, a Jewish feminist group, petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to compel officials to act. In November, liberal rabbis carrying Torah scrolls led a protest at the wall, known in Hebrew as the Kotel.

Sunday was the deadline for the state to file a response to the petition regarding implementation of the agreement, and the government decided instead to freeze it.

Mr. Netanyahu instructed two representatives to try to come up with a new framework and said the construction work to upgrade an additional prayer space at the southern section of the wall would continue.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, based in New York, said that any attempt to “cobble together” some lesser agreement was “unacceptable.”

Speaking shortly after landing in Israel for a gathering of world Jewish leaders, he described the Western Wall decision as “insulting” and “shameful,” and said it “communicates so loudly and clearly that non-Orthodox Jews don’t matter.”

“We all care…

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