Unity coalition bids to revive mixed gender prayer plan at Western Wall

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Unity coalition bids to revive mixed gender prayer plan at Western Wall

Plans for an enlarged egalitarian prayer space, widely supported by progressive Jews, were frozen by Benjamin Netanyahu

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

Women campaigners for egalitarianism at the Western Wall, pictured in 2017
Women campaigners for egalitarianism at the Western Wall, pictured in 2017

Plans to create a permanent mixed gender prayer space next to the Western Wall are set to be revived if Israel’s proposed unity government is sworn in next week.

The coalition agreement struck between opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett includes provisions to expand the small egalitarian prayer platform into a more permanent space.

Liberal streams of Judaism would be represented on a committee that would oversee the prayer space under the plans, which were frozen by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in 2016 under intense pressure from strictly-Orthodox parties.

A vote on the new government will take place in the Knesset on Sunday.

The present gender segregation in the main Western Wall Plaza would remain under its plan for the Kotel, but the existing temporary platform for egalitarian prayer at the southern end of the wall would double in size.

Another change would be in the way worshippers access the prayer spaces: the present physical separation of the egalitarian space is physically separated from the main plaza would end and all three prayer spaces share a common entrance.

The original plans, frozen five years ago, envisaged a larger mixed prayer space (blue) alongside the existing male and female spaces (purple). All three would use a common entrance (Photo: JTA)

The Times of Israel reported members of the new government were confident the plans could be implemented because Israel’s two strictly-Orthodox parties – Shas and United Torah Judaism, which are key allies of Netanyahu – would not be in the coalition.

Calls for more egalitarian prayer space have long been supported by diaspora Jews, especially in the United States, where many communities are progressive and oppose Orthodox rules on gender segregation and the ban on women wearing prayer shawls at the Western Wall.

The existing mixed-gender prayer platform was described by Naftali Bennett, then minister of diaspora affairs, as a temporary arrangement when he opened it in 2014.

Bennett will become Israel’s next prime minister if the eight-party coalition deal receives a vote of confidence in the Knesset on Sunday.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: