israel wailing wall religion.jpg
Photograph: EPA/JIM HOLLANDER

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet voted Sunday in favour of erecting a section for mixed prayer for both men and women underneath the Wailing Wall, a Jewish holy site in Jerusalem, a spokesman confirmed.

The plan comes after an almost 30-year struggle by non-Orthodox Jews who have fought for extended rights for women at the holy site and for mixed services.

The Wailing Wall is considered the only standing remnant of the complex that once housed the Jewish Biblical Temple, the holiest site in Judaism. It is a retaining wall of the platform, known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims.

Today the platform houses al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine.

After Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967, it created a plaza adjacent to the wall, that includes a wide men-only and a smaller women-only prayer section.

"This is really groundbreaking for both women's rights and Jewish pluralism in Israel," said Shira Pruce, the spokeswoman of reform group Women of the Wall.

The move comes after a struggle of 27 years by the group, she said.

While the traditional men's and women's sections are at the northern end of the wall, the mixed section will be erected at its southern end.

Women of the Wall will be on the committee that is to oversee and manage the new section, along with rabbis of liberal, non-Orthodox streams in Judaism, government and Jewish Agency representatives.

"It's not going to be run by an Orthodox rabbi," said Pruce.

"So this is the first time that the keys to a Jewish holy site have been handed over to women and to Jewish leaders who are not Orthodox and that's what makes it so historic."

Orthodox rabbis and parties expressed their strong opposition to the plan.

Palestinian officials and Jordan - the official custodian of al-Aqsa mosque - have always vehemently opposed any changes to the status quo at or near the Muslim site.

Latest news

Iraq claims advance in retaking Mosul airport from Islamic State

Iraqi forces wrested back half of Mosul's airport from Islamic State Thursday, shortly after entering the facility during their ongoing campaign to drive the extremist militia from its last key stronghold in the country.

Rights group: Video shows Cambodian police beating election candidate

A video posted on YouTube shows eight Cambodian paramilitary police beating a man identified as an opposition candidate at a Phnom Penh shopping mall, a rights group said Thursday. 

Malaysia asks Interpol to issue alert for suspects in N Korean death

Malaysia on Thursday requested that Interpol issue an alert for four North Koreans suspected of involvement in last week's killing of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

British suspect arrested in Deutsche Telekom hacking

A 29-year-old British citizen suspected of involvement in a cyberattack that left nearly 1 million Deutsche Telekom customers without services last year has been arrested, German federal police said on Thursday.

Eight killed as bomb targets restaurant in Pakistan’s Lahore

A bomb ripped through a high-end restaurant in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Thursday, killing eight people, officials said, marking another attack amid a surge in violence by Islamist militants that has ended months of fragile calm.

Philippine court orders arrest of top Duterte critic

Senator Leila De Lima, one of the most outspoken critics of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, was on Thursday ordered arrested on illegal drug charges by a Philippine court.

Hrvatski Telekom reports 2016 net profit of HRK 934 mn

Hrvatski Telekom (HT) generated a net profit of HRK 934 million in 2016, which is 1% more than in 2015, the telecommunications company said on Thursday in a report on its financial results in 2016.

FDI in Croatia totals EUR 1.2 bn in Jan-Sept 2016

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Croatia totalled EUR 1.227 billion in the first nine months of 2016, which is 552 million or 82% more than in the same period in 2015, analysts at Raiffeisenbank Austria (RBA) said in a report on Thursday, citing data provided by the Croatian National Bank.

Vietnam asks YouTube to block politically sensitive videos

Vietnamese authorities have demanded that YouTube block 17 videos that thez say violate the country's laws restricting speech, state media reported Thursday.

Croatian-Czech Society marks 25th anniversary

The Croatian-Czech Society (HCD) celebrated a quarter century since its foundation in Zagreb on Wednesday evening and the occasion was marked by the launch of a book, "The Croatian-Czech Society: The First 25 Years".

Trump administration reverses transgender bathroom protections

The Trump administration on Wednesday withdrew Obama-era guidance about the use of school and university bathrooms by transgender students, local media reported.

Several Dakota Access Pipeline protesters arrested as deadline passes

Several people at a camp protesting against a controversial oil pipeline in the US state of North Dakota were arrested Wednesday after a deadline to vacate the land passed, local media reported.