Haredi faction demands new government ban non-Orthodox prayer at Western Wall

United Torah Judaism party reportedly issues new demand in coalition talks, pushing for ban on mixed-gender prayer groups at the Western Wall Plaza.

By World Israel News Staff

One of the Likud’s haredi allies is demanding the new Netanyahu government bar all non-Orthodox, mixed-gender prayer services at the Western Wall Plaza, according to a report by Galei Tzahal Thursday morning.

The United Torah Judaism party, which earlier this week signed a preliminary coalition agreement with the Likud, delineating which positions the party will receive in the new government, has yet to ink a final deal for the formation of a new government.

UTJ is now reportedly demanding that in addition to the passage of new legislation ensuring blanket draft deferrals for full-time yeshiva students, the incoming government also pass a law empowering the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate of Israel to limit prayer services at the Western Wall Plaza.

Under the bill proposed by the UTJ, egalitarian, mixed-gender prayer services not conducted “in accordance with the traditions of the Chief Rabbinate,” would be prohibited at the Western Wall.

Present statues prohibit religious ceremonies which contravene local traditions, but a 2013 Supreme Court ruling backed egalitarian prayer groups, arguing they did not violate the existing law.

The UTJ proposal would also bar mixed-gender prayer services at the egalitarian section, an area on the southern edge of the Western Wall Plaza allocated for Reform, Conservative, and other non-Orthodox prayer groups.

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The Women of the Wall, a liberal Jewish group which holds egalitarian prayers in the Western Wall Plaza every month, condemned UTJ’s demand, calling it a “disgrace to the future government of Israel and a disgrace to the entire State of Israel.”

“The significance of this move is the exclusion of millions of Jews and Jewesses from the Western Wall by the State of Israel and an unambiguous declaration that they are not wanted in the state of the Jews.”

The Reform Movement also condemned the proposal, urging Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu to push back on UTJ’s demand. “This isn’t the private space of haredi Judaism only, it is a holy place and a national site of the utmost importance to all Jews in Israel and the Diaspora, including for millions of liberal Jews.”