Decision to nix Western Wall compromise riles Diaspora

Shas leader Deri: Decision reflects will of the people • Senior Reform rabbi decries “unconscionable insult” to most of world’s Jewry • Jewish Agency cancels event with PM Netanyahu in protest • PM orders top aides to formulate alternative solution.

The government on Sunday shelved a long-overdue plan to open a mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, a major policy reversal that infuriated the liberal streams of Judaism that represent most Jews in the United States.

The egalitarian prayer plan was approved in January 2016 as a compromise reached after years of negotiations between liberal Israeli and American Jewish groups and the Israeli authorities. It was seen as a significant breakthrough in promoting religious pluralism in Israel, where the ultra-Orthodox establishment controls every facet of Jewish life.

But the program was never implemented as powerful ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism threatened a coalition crisis if any progress on the plan was made on the ground.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, trying to avoid a political crisis, instructed Regional Cooperation Minister Tzahi Hanegbi and Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman to formulate a new plan, but said little more.

The decision to suspend the plan prompted warnings that it may spark a crisis with Diaspora Jews, especially in the United States.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who alongside Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz voted against the decision, said freezing the plan “deals a severe blow to the unity of the Jewish people, to various Jewish communities and to the relationship between Israel and the Jewish Diaspora.”

Lieberman said his party would fight the decision.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid accused Netanyahu of “national irresponsibility” and of forfeiting his role as leader of the Jewish people.

“Israel today became the only democracy in the world where there are no equal rights for Jews,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “This is an insulting, irrational affront to the deep religious feelings of millions of Jews.”

Jewish Agency Director Natan Sharansky said he was “deeply disappointed by the government’s decision to suspend the egalitarian prayer plan, which would have created a respectable and equal prayer space at the Western Wall.

“After four years of intensive negotiations, we reached a solution agreed upon by all the major religious streams, which was adopted by the government and welcomed by the Jewish communities around the world. Today’s decision reneged on that agreement and makes it exceedingly difficult to us to bring Israel and the Diaspora closer.”

Protesting the government’s decision, the Jewish Agency announced that it was canceling an event it had planned to hold in the Knesset on Monday evening, where Netanyahu was scheduled to speak.

The Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency said it was calling off its dinner with Netanyahu and promptly altered the agenda of its meetings to address a crisis.

‘Decision an unconscionable insult’

The government’s decision set off a cascade of scathing criticism from liberal groups both in Israel and abroad.

Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs tweeted, “Just landed in Israel to news that Netanyahu has walked away from our Kotel agreement. We will see him in court.”

Jacobs later issued a statement saying, “Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to say ‘no’ to his previous ‘yes’ is an unconscionable insult to the majority of world Jewry. We are assessing all next steps. The Israeli Supreme Court will rule, but even in waiting for the court we will not be still or silent. The stranglehold that the Chief Rabbinate and the ultra-Orthodox parties have on Israel and the enfranchisement of the majority of Jews in Israel and the world must — and will — be ended.”

He further warned that the decision could lead many to rethink their support for Israel.

“There is a limit to how many times you can be delegitimized and insulted. This is the core mission of the Jewish state — to be a home for all Jews. It is unthinkable, but the unthinkable just happened.”

On Monday, Reform leaders who were scheduled to meet with Netanyahu on Thursday, canceled the meeting.

The cancellation of the egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, and the government’s backing of a bill giving the Chief Rabbinate exclusive authority over conversions — including the power to disqualify conversions performed by Reform and Conservative rabbis overseas — are the “culmination of a severe crisis” between the Israeli government and Diaspora Jewry, Jacobs said, adding, “We feel that we have northing talk about with the prime minister.”

Director of the Conservative Movement in Israel Yizhar Hess said the government had “surrendered to the ultra-Orthodox parties and had left Jewish communities around the world stunned.”

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, president of the Israel Reform Movement, said, “The decision by the government is a reprehensible and embarrassing surrender to pressure by the haredi political parties, which severely damages the basic core interests of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. The prime minister and his coalition partners actively gave their blessing to this anti-Zionist step that will hurt the relations between Israel and the Diaspora, and weaken the connection of millions of Jews to Jerusalem. We will continue to fight for the right of equality and freedom of religion at the Western Wall and every other site in the State of Israel, together with our many partners in Israel and throughout the Diaspora.”

Kariv noted he plans to petition the High Court of Justice, saying, “We believe that it will defend the Jewish and democratic values of the State of Israel.”

Abraham Foxman, former national director of the Anti-Defamation League, described the decision as a “slap in the face” of Diaspora Jews.

Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of the Women of the Wall group that has pushed for egalitarian access to the wall, said she was “outraged by this government decision. I think it shows cowardice. For two years, we negotiated in good faith with the government and then today they decide that it is null and void, that they’re not going to implement it, that equality is out the window.”

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, head of the New York-based Rabbinical Assembly, an association for Conservative movement rabbis, said the decision was not surprising given the clout of ultra-Orthodox parties yet shocking nonetheless for its divisive message. Still, she said it would not affect her devotion to Israel.

“The people of Israel still need our support and our love and the fact that an unbelievably, spectacularly shortsighted government cannot see its way to understand the critical importance of unity of world Jewry is something that is the fault of the politicians,” she said.

‘Move preserves status quo’

Shas leader Aryeh Deri welcomed the government’s decision to block the plan he said would have harmed the “sanctity of the site. … Preserving the status quo of the Western Wall reflects the will of most of the people. There is no room there for destructive factions whose only purpose is to desecrate the site. I’m glad the government stopped this. It was a very important step.”

United Torah Judaism head Yakov Litzman said the decision “sends a clear message to the world that the reformists will never be allowed a foothold on the Western Wall.”

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) said the decision “succeeded in preventing unnecessary division that would have harmed the social and religious fabric of Israeli society and the Jewish people. We will continue to defend and strengthen the status quo and Jewish identity for the benefit of Israel and the Jewish people in the Diaspora.”

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau said, “The government decision that had divided the Western Wall, the heart of the Jewish people, was fundamentally wrong, and it is good that it will not go ahead.

“The Western Wall cannot be divided. Over the decades, the people of Israel have come there en masse from all over the world. The Western Wall has been and will continue to be [administered] according to the custom of the place and according to Halachah [Jewish law] and tradition.”

June 26, 2017 | 14 Comments » | 575 views

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14 Comments / 14 Comments

  1. When the Wall is owned by the Government, the decision on whether to enforce the mechitza will be made by politicians for political purposes.

  2. The Reforms believe that a Beit Hamikdash exists wherever they happen to be, i.e. at Temple This-or-That.

    If they don’t want mechitzot at their temples, they don’t have to have them.

    If they want to use their temples as abortion clinics, they’re free to partner with PP.

    If they want gay marriages performed at their temples, they can have them.

    I’m not very impressed by the complaints of US Reforms that the Israeli Government has hurt their pride.

  3. The Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency said it was calling off its dinner with Netanyahu ..

    because the PM objected to the presence of ‘shrimp and lobster sauce’ as a choice on the menu.

  4. In 2015, the Court ruled that Jews could pray on the Temple Mount

    http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Jerusalem-court-upholds-Jewish-prayer-on-Temple-Mount-392744

    In 2016, Jews were arrested for praying

    http://honenu.org/three-jews-detained-on-temple-mount-on-suspicion-of-praying/
    In 2017 Jews are still being arrested for trying to pray on the Temple Mount

    http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/news/world_news/five-jews-arrested-after-altercation-near-temple-mount/article_1d99783d-26d2-5c7c-8d2a-698fcda882f1.html

    Tell you what, if Baba Streisand and Natan Scharansky and Co. insist on their right to pray any way and anywhere they want on the Temple Mount, I will defend their right to pray anywhere they want. Until then, I’m sick of their narcissistic whining. (Though, nobody should be allowed to sacrifice animals anywhere for any reason. Unnecessary cruelty to animals is bad and also un-Jewish, so sacrificing goats or cows is out. Halal should be outlawed too. Traditional Kashrut is all about saving animals pain as well as for human health, I don’t know about factory style. But, Halal is nothing like Kashrut in its treatment of animals. Israel had to rescue animals from the Gaza zoo, as well. If you so those pictures. Shocking.)

  5. The Government should SELL OFF the Wall, the Temple Mount, etc, at open auction, to the highest private bidder(s).

    The money raised should be REBATED to Israeli taxpayers.

    The Sheldon Adelson Wall.

    He could then move that mosque to Las Vegas, piece by piece, as the anchor for an entirely new Islamic-themed, resort hotel.

    During Ramadan, suicide-bombing shows every hour.

  6. Western Wall

    An impromptu Orthodox prayer service at the pluralist section of the Western Wall in Jerusalem.. (photo credit:YIZHAR HESS)

    Diaspora Jewry was justified Monday to blast the government, after the slap in the face it received from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet over its decision to freeze the 2016 Kotel deal – a deal that was supposed to have led to the establishment of an egalitarian prayer plaza at the holy site.

    Sunday, I wrote, will go down in history as a shameful day for the Jewish state, and will, sadly, lead to a greater divide between Israel and the Diaspora. Nevertheless, now is the time to consider how to move forward.

    Jewish Agency cancels Netanyahu dinner after Western Wall decision
    Israeli decision on Western Wall gets unprecedented rap from Jewish Agency

    ere are four ways:

    1) Focus on construction

    The main problem for the haredim (ultra-Orthodox) with the original Kotel deal from 2016 was that it included the establishment of a committee to be jointly chaired by officials from the Prime Minister’s Office and representatives of the different movements, primarily Reform and Conservative.

    The ultra-Orthodox could not live with the establishment of a committee that would have given the movements de facto legal recognition in Israel.

    Now, with the Kotel deal canceled – or “frozen” as the Prime Minister’s Office likes to say – this committee will not be established. While this is a blow for the movements, canceling the committee opens the door to construction of a larger and more respectable plaza for egalitarian prayer than the one that is currently at the southern section of the Western Wall.

    On Sunday, Netanyahu met with haredi party leaders and informed them that renovations will go ahead. According to one high-ranking official, construction will begin soon. http://www.jpost.com/jerusalem/After-the-blow-here-are-four-ways-to-still-advance-the-Kotel-deal-497961

  7. They should demolish the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque and build the egalitarian prayer site where they once stood. Genuinely moderate Muslims won’t make too much of a fuss, and Islamists will reveal themselves through their violent expressions of outrage. Once they make it clear who they are, the fish separating themselves from the sea, as it were, they should be swiftly transported to concentration camps and gassed. Sound shocking, un-Jewish? Ever read Psalm 137 to the end?

    “Psalm 137New International Version (NIV)

    Psalm 137
    1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
    when we remembered Zion.
    2 There on the poplars
    we hung our harps,
    3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
    our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
    they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
    4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land?
    5 If I forget you, Jerusalem,
    may my right hand forget its skill.
    6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
    if I do not remember you,
    if I do not consider Jerusalem
    my highest joy.
    7 Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
    on the day Jerusalem fell.
    “Tear it down,” they cried,
    “tear it down to its foundations!”
    8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
    happy is the one who repays you
    according to what you have done to us.
    9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks.”

    Think Abba Kovner was “Un-Jewish?”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abba_Kovner

    See Nakam section

  8. The end of my post was cut off. Think that’s shocking? Un-Jewish? Ever read Psalm 137 to the end?

    “Psalm 137
    1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
    when we remembered Zion.
    2 There on the poplars
    we hung our harps,
    3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
    our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
    they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
    4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land?
    5 If I forget you, Jerusalem,
    may my right hand forget its skill.
    6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
    if I do not remember you,
    if I do not consider Jerusalem
    my highest joy.
    7 Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
    on the day Jerusalem fell.
    “Tear it down,” they cried,
    “tear it down to its foundations!”
    8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
    happy is the one who repays you
    according to what you have done to us.
    9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks.”

    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%20137

    Think Abba Kovner was “un-Jewish?”

    See under “Nakam”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abba_Kovner

    “If somebody is coming to kill you, get up early in the morning and kill him first.” Babylonian Talmud

    http://www.come-and-hear.com/berakoth/berakoth_58.html

  9. addendum:

    “If somebody is coming to kill you, get up early in the morning and kill him first.” Babylonian Talmud

    http://www.come-and-hear.com/berakoth/berakoth_58.html

    How many more of our people must die senselessly?

    “Terrorist’s mother arrested
    Security forces arrest mother of stabbing terrorist involved in Friday’s attack on suspicion of inciting violence.”
    21/06/17 14:46
    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/231366

    “BREAKING PHOTOS: Arab terrorist shot dead moments after attempting to stab Israeli soldier in Binyamin region. pic.twitter.com/aU8xTTwKcH”

  10. The reform crowd only wants to do mixed-sex prayer solely for political, not religious purposes. They do not consider the Wall to be a holy place. There is already a space on the wall instituted by the government for mixed-gender prayer, But it is rarely used. If they succeed in arrange for mixed-gender services on the main Wall plaza, They will hold a few “victory” services there. But they will rarely never hold religious services there after that. “Women at the Wall” is a political pressure group whose members feel no religious or spiritual need to pray at the wall. What they really want is for the government to grant them equal status as religious “streams” with Orthodox Jew, with all the same powers and government funding that the Orthodox enjoy. A secondary objective is to end all sex separation in all Jewish public spaces in Israel (they don’t object to Muslim sex separation and inequality).

    Since the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist sects no longer support Israel, but support the Palestinian Arabs, Israelis should ignore their threats to end support for Israel. They have already done that, for reasons unrelated to the Western Wall. Israel should deny passports to any officials of these sects, and refuse to meet with their leaders, until they resume support for Israel and resume serious lobbying in on behalf of Israel in the United States and Britain. Until and unless they resume active support for Israel and cease making threats and unjust criticisms of it, The Israeli government should just freeze them out.

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