The floor was replaced last week due to damage and consequent safety issues with the original flooring, which was installed when the prayer platform was first built during Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s term as Diaspora Affairs Minister eight years ago in 2013.
The repair work was authorized by officials in the Prime Minister’s Office, including a safety consultant, with the goal of ensuring that the site meets safety regulations.
The repairs were funded by the Prime Minister’s Office at a cost of NIS 130,000 and were approved by the accountant general in the finance ministry.
The petition argues, in part, that the current egalitarian section is unbecoming for a place of prayer and demands that the government either upgrade the current egalitarian prayer section to make it fitting for a place of prayer or allocate prayer space in the central Western Wall plaza for the non-Orthodox movements.
Senior officials in the current government have indicated that the cabinet will soon address the 2016 agreement, likely after the passage of the budget in November.
The recent repairs did not include a small prayer platform abutting the stones of the Western Wall itself within the egalitarian prayer section, which was damaged by a large stone that fell out of the wall in 2018 and has remained out of use ever since.
The damaged platform is the only access to the stones of the Western Wall from the main egalitarian prayer platform, which is set back from the actual wall.
There is currently an administrative stop-work order from the Jerusalem Municipal Council against the repair of that platform, following appeals to the council by opponents of non-Orthodox prayer rights at the site.
“The light renovation that was carried out this week is timely, but has nothing to do with the Western Wall agreement,” said Deputy Chairman of the World Zionist Organization Yizhar Hess, a former director of the Masorti Movement in Israel.
“The Company for the Development of the Jewish Quarter which carried out the repairs did excellent work but no one should think that this slight renovation represents any kind of solution. We are waiting for the government to unfreeze the Western Wall agreement, and to do it forthwith.”
The hardline Orthodox Liba organization, which has lobbied and campaigned against non-Orthodox prayer rights at the Western Wall, condemned the repair work on the platform.
“This type of work proves that the goal of the Reform movements is to impose their faith on the Jewish character of the Western Wall and the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, all under the auspices and support of the Israeli government, which also includes MKs from Yamina, contrary to all promises,” said Liba director Oren Hennig.