Modern changes suddenly are afoot at Jerusalem’s ancient Western Wall. Two developments this week signal greater access for Jews who seek to pray in their own way at the 2,000-year-old surviving outer retaining wall of the Second Temple, Judaism’s holiest site.
In a landmark decision, Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled Monday that women can hold group prayer services at the Wall, wear prayer shawls, read aloud from the Torah — and must be provided police protection.
As Ehud Barak flies to the U.S. this weekend for meetings with President Clinton and American Jewish leaders, the Israeli prime minister leaves behind a tumultuous series of events that underscore the surreal quality of the peace process.
As Israelis honored their war dead Tuesday and celebrated their independence the next day, the bitter divisions that have pitted Israelis against Arabs, and Israelis against each other, continued to surface.
With increasing attention being paid to the anti-Israel nastiness of Palestinian textbooks, and amid demands that the curriculum be overhauled, consider the following comments about Israel from a prominent academic: “the garbage heap of Europe,” a “site of experiments … in ethnic cleansing,” and “a regime that produces and distributes evil systematically.”
As preparations were made for a new round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks beginning Sunday in the Israeli southern port city of Eilat, upbeat statements from both sides did little to mask an undertone of pessimism.
“There is absolutely no delay in the deadlines,” Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat said Sunday, referring to the May deadline to hammer out a framework of a permanent peace treaty in September.
In his most revealing comments to date, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has outlined plans to his cabinet and to President Bill Clinton that pave the way for a demilitarized Palestinian state on 70 to 80 percent of the West Bank. That is about 25 percent more land than his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, was publicly willing to cede.