Israel revisits female prayer shawl ban at Western Wall

Israeli women of the Women of the Wall organization hold a Torah scroll during a prayer just outside the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray in Jerusalem's old city, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. The shawls they are wearing are only worn by men in Orthodox tradition. AP Photo/Dan Balilty

JERUSALEM Israel's prime minister has instructed a quasi-governmental Jewish organization to find a solution for non-Orthodox Jewish female groups wishing to pray at one of Judaism's holiest sites.

An official said Tuesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, to look into the matter. The official spoke anonymously according to government regulations.

Last week Israeli police detained women from a liberal Jewish group who approached the Western Wall in Jerusalem carrying prayer shawls. Orthodox Jews insist those are for men only. The women seek to worship at the site without such restrictions.

Jewish Agency spokesman Benjamin Rutland said Netanyahu told Sharansky that the Western Wall "must remain a source of Jewish unity rather than division." The wall is a remnant of the biblical Jewish Temple compound.

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