Western Wall egalitarian issue must be resolved
In January, we hailed the Israeli Cabinet’s historic decision to carve out a prayer space for non- Orthodox Jews at the Western Wall. Unfortunately, implementation of the plan has not gone smoothly.
Caving to pressure from Haredi lawmakers in his coalition government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu froze the decision. Groups that have continued to hold mixed prayer services in the upper plaza of the Western Wall have been met with harassment. And now the negotiating team supporting the agreement has made public its intent to initiate legal action in Israel’s Supreme Court if the deal is not honored.
However it happens, it is absolutely critical to the relationship between the state of Israel and world Jewry that Jews of all denominations be permitted to pray as they are accustomed to at the site they all consider the holiest in the world. Nowhere else, besides Israel, are there restrictions for Jews to pray publicly in mixed-prayer settings. It is past due for Israeli lawmakers to pave the way for all Jews to feel welcomed in their own country.
Representatives from the Conservative and Reform movements, as well as Women of the Wall, a group that fights for equal access to the Western Wall, recently sent a letter to Netanyahu stating that, in the very near future, they will bring a petition to the high court demanding the reapportionment of the current northern plaza prayer area into three sections: men, women and mixed. It added that groups will continue to hold mixed prayer services in the upper plaza, known as Robinson’s Arch, and expected police protection from protesters and hecklers.
The letter also states that the negotiators are looking forward to the day when Netanyahu leads the Israeli government in affirming that every Jew, no matter how he or she expresses a commitment to Judaism, has access to Israel’s holiest site.
That indeed would be an amazing day. Let’s hope it comes soon. s