After a contentious and occasionally violent debate lasting decades, Israel has finally agreed to expand the women’s prayer section at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, so that it is as big as the men’s prayer section. Yet opposition from the Palestinian Authority to any changes in the area may block the plan.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Religious Affairs, Mahmoud El Habash, said that Palestinians would oppose any change at the Western Wall that could involve shifting the current footbridge entrance to the Temple Mount, or Haram a-Sharif, as it is known to Muslims.
Orthodox Judaism typically separates the sexes during prayers so that participants, and men in particular, are not distracted by impure thoughts. The men’s section at the Western Wall is significantly larger than the women’s section, partly because of greater use among men, who are obligated to pray three times a day. Women are encouraged to pray but are not obligated to do so, according to Orthodox Jewish tradition.