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Bennett urges patience on Western Wall plan

Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, speaking at a political debate at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Jan. 8, 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, speaking at a political debate at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Jan. 8, 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

(JTA) — Israel’s minister of religious services, Naftali Bennett, acknowledged flaws in his plan for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall.

“I know that the temporary platform is not perfect,” Bennett wrote in a letter reported Thursday by Haaretz. “But, in the spirit of Rosh Hashana, I felt an obligation to provide an immediate solution so every Jew can pray at the Kotel.”

According to the plan announced Monday, a 4,840-square-foot platform at Robinson’s Arch that can accommodate 450 worshipers at a time will be available 24 hours a day for egalitarian worship. The platform is located in an area near the Western Wall, but separate from the main prayer plaza.

Bennett’s plan is a temporary answer until the implementation of a long-term solution devised by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharnsky. The Sharansky plan is aimed at defusing longstanding tensions between Orthodox leaders who want to maintain traditional prayer at the wall and women and egalitarian groups seeking equal access.

The Sharansky Plan calls for the Robinson’s Arch archaeological site at the southern part of the Western Wall to be used as a permanent space for egalitarian prayer. Under the proposal, the Western Wall plaza would be expanded to encompass the additional prayer space.

The two sections of the plaza, separated by the Mugrabi Bridge, would share a common entrance.

“It is important to stress that the new platform is temporary,” Bennett wrote. “I remain committed to the government’s efforts to advance the ‘Sharansky Plan’ as well as to continuing a dialogue with representatives from all religious movements and all parts of the Jewish nation.”

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