Israel, February 4, 2016
The Western Wall is the holiest place for the Jewish people. It was the western retaining wall of Temple Mount, that is the man made extension of Mount Moriah , built in the days of king Herod. When the Temple was standing, the Western Wall was a place of no special significance except for being a retaining wall.
Ever since the destruction of the 2nd temple, for many centuries, Jews were not permitted to visit Jerusalem, let alone the Western Wall. We don't have any written evidence that Jews aspired to make their way to the Wall or that the Western wall was the focal point of the nation's yearning to Jerusalem and Israel. On the nation's collective memory it was Temple Mount that was the center of the nation's longing and not the Western Wall. Over the years, most of the Wall was covered by living quarters and access to it was limited.
The first solid evidence that mentions the wall as a place of Jewish worship is from 1488. The Ottoman Empire had recognized the Wall as a Jewish holy place and ever since it took its position and religious\national significance.
After the war of independence and the armistice between Israel and Jordan, Jews had the write to visit the Western Wall however the Jordanians, that occupied east Jerusalem, (the location of Temple Mount), never allowed it. For nearly 20 years, the Western Wall was out of reach to Israelis.
The Wall is in Israeli hands since the liberation of Jerusalem by Israel in June 1967. The authority to handle the Western Wall was given by the state to the rabbinical authorities. Since in Israel there is no separation of state and religion, the form of visiting and worship by the Western Wall was dictated by the orthodox authorities without considering the needs and traditions of other forms of Judaism.
Reformed and conservative Jews that have different Jewish rituals were not permitted to exercise their way of worship by the Wall. By Orthodox Judaism, women are not part of the public service and worship in synagogues. They are spectators, watching the ceremony from an upper gallery or behind a veil. It is forbidden for women to study the Talmud or to wear a prayer shawl. In the reformed and conservative Jewish world man and women worship together in their Temples (the reformed term for a synagogue). There was a lot of protest against the monopoly that the Orthodox have over the way of worship by the Western Wall. A group of women was protesting time and again for the right to wear a pray shoal and read from the Torah by the Western Wall. Whenever they had showed up by the Western Wall demanding to recognize their right to pray by their own rituals there was a burst of unrest from among the Orthodox worshippers. They appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court demanding to have the right to participate in worship by the Western Wall practicing their way of worship. The court, after several sessions ruled in their favor.
In the near future, arrangements will be made to allow another form of worship by the Western Wall. That will not happen without protest from the others. It looks like this is the first breach of the Orthodox monopoly to decide what the right form of worship is and force all the others to accept it.
The articles in this section are reflecting the Israeli point of view regarding local and regional events.
I'm not a state official and I have no access to inside information. The articles and the opinions I'm expressing are mine alone and are based on observing and knowing the region and country for many years.