Netanyahu nixes bill that bans immodest dress and women’s prayer groups at Western Wall

The proposed legislation would ban activities of the Women of the Wall prayer rights group, including wearing tefillin.

By World Israel News Staff

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday afternoon that the Shas-proposed Western Wall bill, which calls for the cancellation of the mixed-gender section at the holy site, among other things, was not on the table.

“I heard the headlines this morning about the Western Wall and I would like to reassure and clarify: the status quo at the Western Wall, which is precious to all the people of Israel, will be maintained as it is today. I have also talked with my friends, the leaders of the factions, and it is accepted by all that the law will not be brought up now. Even if it were to be brought up, it would not be brought up with the clauses imposing criminal charges on certain clothing or musical instruments that were written 40 years ago and are not acceptable to anyone”. Netanyahu said.

“Therefore, the Wall will remain exactly as it is today,” the Prime Minister said.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who is chair of the the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, informed coalition heads that the bill would not be discussed on Sunday.

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The legislation, which Shas itself later backtracked, would also ban activities of the Women of the Wall prayer rights group, including wearing tefillin, and require visitors to the site to dress in modest clothing. People in violation of the regulations could face a six-month prison term or a NIS 10,000 ($2,900) fine.

Likud itself was said to be taken by surprise by the bill, which prompted outrage among coalition partners. Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar said that the Western Wall was “sacred” to all Jews and “belongs to all the people of Israel”.

“There is no need for laws to maintain the sanctity of the place. Maintaining the status quo is critical to maintaining the unity of the people,” he said.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid issued a scathing condemnation, saying the government was setting out “tear the people of Israel apart.”