This article originally appeared on VICE Serbia
In accordance with Orthodox Jewish tradition – and thanks to a simple folding fence –, men and women are still praying separately at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The male side is a bit larger than the female one, and even during visits from high-ranking officials or military ceremonies, the folding fence remains in place.
Meanwhile, women are not allowed to perform other parts of prayer ceremony near the Wall either – like wear prayer shawls or read from the Torah out loud. Almost three decades ago, liberal Jewish groups and organisations like Women of The Wall started protesting these bans and lobbied to introduce a space where women, men and trans people can pray together without gender-based restrictions getting in the way. In the years since, gatherings by the group's supporters and other activists have led to arrests and violence.
In early 2016, the Israeli government made a historic decision – it approved the plan for an additional, more liberal, area at the Wall where men and women could pray together. The plan however has not been realised yet, because ultra-Orthodox groups are strongly opposing the solution, claiming it would cause "spiritual damage beyond imagination." On June 1st, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that he is still behind the plan but insisted that the implementation needed more time.
Until that more inclusive prayer area is created, Jewish women of all ages have to pray in front of a separated, smaller part of the Wall.