Women may get more access to Western Wall

Dec. 26, 2012 at 2:51 PM

JERUSALEM, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- The head of the Jewish Agency has agreed to review rules at the Western Wall in Jerusalem that limit women's prayers.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu requested the review from Natan Sharansky, head of the Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental organization, The New York Times reported. The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is a remnant of the wall surrounding the Second Temple and is supervised by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

The review follows a series of arrests of women who violated regulations by praying at the wall wearing prayer shawls and carrying Torahs. The regulations and the arrests have angered Conservative and Reform Jews outside Israel, the Times said.

"The prime minister thinks the Western Wall has to be a site that expresses the unity of the Jewish people, both inside Israel and outside the state of Israel," Ron Dermer, Netanyahu's senior adviser, told the Times on Tuesday. "He wants to preserve the unity of world Jewry. This is an important component of Israel's strength."

The Jewish Agency itself stopped holding ceremonies for new immigrants because the foundation banned coed seating. Men and women can now pray together only in a small area, Robinson's Arch.

Sharansky said he will make recommendations on changes within a few months.

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