After years of rancor over rituals at the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism, the Israeli government on Sunday approved the creation of an upgraded egalitarian prayer space there for non-Orthodox Jews.
The cabinet decision was hailed as “historic” by American Jewish leaders who had long chafed at the strictly Orthodox control of the site. It was also viewed as a victory for Women of the Wall, a group of Israeli and diaspora Jews that has championed the struggle against the male-dominated establishment for 27 years in a battle largely fought with prayer shawls and Torah scrolls.
For centuries, the massive, beige stones of the iconic wall in Jerusalem’s Old City have been a symbol of Jewish unity, a place of reflection and prayer. That harmony has been marred by disputes over practices and customs between the Orthodox authorities who control most religious life in Israel and the more diverse communities here and abroad.