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Jerusalem - Cabinet Approves 'Historic' Decision To Create Western Wall Egalitarian Prayer Space

Published on: January 31, 2016 09:26 AM
By: AP
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Members of activist group "Women of the Wall" speak to the media following the Israeli government's approval to create a mixed prayer plaza near Jerusalem's Western Wall to accommodate Jews who contest Orthodox curbs on worship by women at the site, in Jerusalem's Old City January 31, 2016. REUTERS/Amir CohenMembers of activist group "Women of the Wall" speak to the media following the Israeli government's approval to create a mixed prayer plaza near Jerusalem's Western Wall to accommodate Jews who contest Orthodox curbs on worship by women at the site, in Jerusalem's Old City January 31, 2016. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Jerusalem - Israel’s Cabinet voted Sunday to allow non-Orthodox Jewish prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, a move advocates said marked a historic show of government support for liberal streams of Judaism.

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The issue is of particular importance to the Jewish community in the United States, where the more liberal Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism are dominant. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed the plan in an attempt to please American Jews, a key source of support for Israel, despite stiff opposition by ultra-Orthodox and religious nationalist elements in Israel who are key members of his own government.

“I know this is a sensitive topic, but I think it is an appropriate solution, a creative solution,” Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, where members voted on the plan.

According to the government plan, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, Israel will build a new plaza for mixed gender prayer at the Western Wall, adjacent to the Orthodox prayer plaza but separate from it.

The Jewish Federations of North America, an umbrella group of Jewish communities, issued a joint statement with the Reform and Conservative movements calling the decision a “dramatic, unprecedented and critical acknowledgement” by Israel that the holy site should incorporate liberal Jewish prayer traditions.

“Though much work regarding the implementation of this decision still remains, it is because of our perseverance and commitment to Jewish peoplehood that we are measurably closer today to the ultimate symbol of that reality - one wall for one people,” the statement read.

The Western Wall, a remnant of the ancient Jewish Temple complex, is the holiest site where Jews may pray. The site is administered by ultra-Orthodox rabbinic authorities, who have a monopoly over religious affairs in Israel. There are separate men’s and women’s prayer sections and non-Orthodox prayer, like mixed-gender services and women-led prayers, are forbidden.

A leading women’s prayer group, Women of the Wall, caused controversy for years by holding monthly non-Orthodox prayers at the site. Police arrested women carrying Torah scrolls and wearing religious articles traditionally reserved for men, practices ultra-Orthodox Jews oppose and consider a provocation.

The section that will be prepared for prayer for the Women of the Wall group, by Robinson's Arch in Jerusalem's Old City, as an extention of the Western Wall, will be open for Jews both men and women to pray together. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90The section that will be prepared for prayer for the Women of the Wall group, by Robinson's Arch in Jerusalem's Old City, as an extention of the Western Wall, will be open for Jews both men and women to pray together. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90

The Reform and Conservative movements of Judaism have supported the group’s cause and demanded representation at the holy site. Netanyahu appointed a committee in 2013, led by the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, to seek solutions for non-Orthodox prayer there. Shortly after, a temporary prayer platform was erected for mixed-gender prayer, but advocates say it was not an official site and that it was not always open.

The $9 million initiative will build a permanent mixed-gender prayer area where the temporary platform is today. It will also create a new entrance to the Western Wall area so both Orthodox and non-Orthodox prayer areas will be given equal prominence. The pluralistic prayer area will not be managed by the ultra-Orthodox rabbi of the Western Wall, but by a committee including representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements. The new prayer area will allow Women of the Wall to hold women’s prayers.

“It stands to open the floodgates of women’s rights in the public sphere in Israel ... and opens the floodgates for Jewish pluralism in Israel,” said Shira Pruce of Women of the Wall. “This is unprecedented change.” Pruce said a Cabinet minister’s staffer relayed the result of the vote to the group before the Cabinet officially announced it.

Uri Ariel, a hard-line Cabinet minister from the Orthodox-leaning Jewish Home party, said he opposed the initiative. It “gives standing to the Reform. Their intention is to create conflict and dispute. It’s not appropriate. The Western Wall is a place of unity,” Ariel said on Israeli Army Radio.

Arieh Deri, head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, also opposed it. “Israel for all of its years has been administered by devout Judaism. All this problem with Reform and Conservatives never existed in Israel, and there is no reason it should now,” Deri told Army Radio.

Israel’s Orthodox rabbinical establishment wields a monopoly over key aspects of religious life in the country, such as marriage, divorce and burials while Reform and Conservative rabbis are not recognized and their movements are largely marginalized. Unlike in the U.S., most Jews in Israel, while secular, follow Orthodox traditions.

These long-simmering tensions between the world’s two-largest Jewish communities have been aggravated by a series of steps by religious elements in Netanyahu’s coalition government meant to halt attempts by the liberal streams to win recognition in Israel.

The religious-nationalist government last year canceled reforms meant to ease conversion to Judaism, unraveling painstaking efforts by the previous government to weaken the grip of Israel’s Orthodox establishment. That was followed by inflammatory rhetoric from the Cabinet minister responsible for religious affairs, saying he does not consider Reform Jews to be Jewish. Netanyahu distanced himself from the comments.



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Read Comments (20)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jan 31, 2016 at 09:52 AM jjcholov Says:

This is so shameful it shows the rebbas and robanim couldn't care less about right and wrong as long as they're fed some welfare checks it's time for a new movement in Judaism that sets lines in the sand which actually have to do with the Torah unlike the robannim in eretz yisroel.

2

 Jan 31, 2016 at 10:30 AM ALTERG1 Says:

What a shame, & you guys still wane tell me Israel is a Jewish state, BTW now I'm happy I never attend the kotel in my life as per the Holy Satmar rabba zt"l advise, he had רוח הקודש that this ugly mixed gender thing will happen.

3

 Jan 31, 2016 at 10:31 AM yidele1 Says:

and you still wonder why there are daily terrorists attacks ,huh!

4

 Jan 31, 2016 at 11:18 AM Upset Says:

What will these trouble-making attention seeking women do now that they got their way and cannot make trouble in this fashion any longer? They thrived on their attention getting trouble-making. It seems to me that they will find some other controversies to create to get attention. I feel this is only the beginning.

It says in many sefarim (holy books) that those who attempt to pervert the words of the Living G-d will be wiped out from the book of life, they and their offspring. I am not worried about what they have done, G-d will take care of them in due time. We will see what will happen to them and their movement. Just as Yeravum ben Navat, the king of the 10 tribes, and his family were annihilated so will they and their families. The G-d of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalms 121).

5

 Jan 31, 2016 at 11:32 AM Moone Says:

Reply to #2  
ALTERG1 Says:

What a shame, & you guys still wane tell me Israel is a Jewish state, BTW now I'm happy I never attend the kotel in my life as per the Holy Satmar rabba zt"l advise, he had רוח הקודש that this ugly mixed gender thing will happen.

With respect to this issue I hardly believe you have an authentic source to your claim that the Satmar Rebbe forsaw this with his Ruach Hakodesh. Besides that satmar Rebbe's opposition to visiting the Kosel is unrelated to the prayers there or to the adminstrive policies but rather to the symbolic support it provides for the religious Zionist movement.

P.s. just because you (or your pilot) is in disagreement with mixed gender practice, doesn't make it 'ugly'. It's not much different than any open plaza where families come together (think about Chol Hamoed places or even supermarket).

6

 Jan 31, 2016 at 11:36 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
ALTERG1 Says:

What a shame, & you guys still wane tell me Israel is a Jewish state, BTW now I'm happy I never attend the kotel in my life as per the Holy Satmar rabba zt"l advise, he had רוח הקודש that this ugly mixed gender thing will happen.

Obviously you never "attend" school either.

7

 Jan 31, 2016 at 11:52 AM Curiosity Says:

I was going to say that even nochrim had a section in the beis hamikdash, but these avaryanim are on a much lower level.

8

 Jan 31, 2016 at 12:28 PM tracht-abisel Says:

"A leading women’s prayer group, Women of the Wall ..." - Women OFF the Wall. It's so sad that they have no inkling what Davening is all about, what having a relationship with Hashem is all about. They may espouse feminism and other "feel-good" ideas of humanism, "tikun-olam" etc. but unfortunately are devoid of any depth (except for "depth of focus" when smiling for the media's cameras).

9

 Jan 31, 2016 at 12:43 PM cowdoc Says:

Personally this does not matter to me as I will not use the mixed area. If others want to use it why not? If the dissenters to this ruling have a problem with this let them kindly explain to those that want to use the egalitarian section why it is not allowed according to halacha and make the visit to the halachic area an experience so wonderful that there were be no demand for the other area.

10

 Jan 31, 2016 at 12:57 PM Befuddled Says:

I really cant understand why the heroic women of the wall are so regressive. Why in the world must they continue to wear "black" tefillin when there are so many absolutely beautiful colors possible. I thing a bright pink color would go so nicely with blonde hair.

11

 Jan 31, 2016 at 01:42 PM Esther Says:

Reply to #3  
yidele1 Says:

and you still wonder why there are daily terrorists attacks ,huh!

Do you have a direct line to G-d that you know THE reason for terrorist attacks,RL?

12

 Jan 31, 2016 at 02:03 PM HankM Says:

If these ladies were sincere, there would be female prayer groups springing up in reform and conservative temples all over the world. Since there are not, I must assume these ladies are a bunch of rabble rousers

13

 Jan 31, 2016 at 02:13 PM Anonymous Says:

Bibi, you have sealed your fate! Have you not learned from the fate Arik? This will result in retribution from H"BH. This is totally disgusting! A perversion of Yiddishkeit by a few mis-guided souls. Israel is Eretz HaKodesh, when will we all learn that. We have a Holy Torah and Rabbonim who give us sage council. Follow HaShems way, he has protected us for thousands of years.

14

 Jan 31, 2016 at 02:26 PM YumiYarmush Says:

Not so sure that this is a bad idea..!!
Wait till they get their designated spot which will be out'v sight & out'v earshot of the main davening area which in essence nixes their capability to attract attention & get everyone angry... and once all the media attention dies down the whole prayer service will die down with it. Because holding their monthly purim shpiel without causing a disturbance to the regular kosel goers does not serve their purpose and sooner than later these 20 or so tallis wearing loony-ladies will 1 by 1 stop showing up and the new kosel reform temple will be as empty and dark as most other reform temples around the world except for the occasional bar/bat mitzva ceremony by some foreign visitors, that till now have held these ceremonies in main area..

15

 Jan 31, 2016 at 02:51 PM Myrak Says:

At a time when we need deep and sincere Tfillos for the welfare of Klal Yisrael, let everyone from their own quarter deliver heartfelt davening to the Aibershter. Davening and the right to pray should not be political.

16

 Jan 31, 2016 at 04:39 PM SandmanNY Says:

If you criticizers would spend half the time figuring how to be mekarev b'ahavah vs condemning b'sinah, you might see a different outcome.

17

 Jan 31, 2016 at 05:28 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
Moone Says:

With respect to this issue I hardly believe you have an authentic source to your claim that the Satmar Rebbe forsaw this with his Ruach Hakodesh. Besides that satmar Rebbe's opposition to visiting the Kosel is unrelated to the prayers there or to the adminstrive policies but rather to the symbolic support it provides for the religious Zionist movement.

P.s. just because you (or your pilot) is in disagreement with mixed gender practice, doesn't make it 'ugly'. It's not much different than any open plaza where families come together (think about Chol Hamoed places or even supermarket).

The kosel in VERY DIFFERENT than any other open plaza...are u kidding me?

18

 Jan 31, 2016 at 05:33 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #11  
Esther Says:

Do you have a direct line to G-d that you know THE reason for terrorist attacks,RL?

You dont need a direct line...We all have a direct line, by the way...
We all know that tzuros befall our nation for the many reasons the Torah espouses....they dont need to be specifics.
We need to UP OUR GAME..in Torah mitzvas and maasim toivim..

19

 Jan 31, 2016 at 10:09 PM Anonymous Says:

I'm sad, but I also laugh. I'm sad to see theses reform movement witches desecrate the Kossel. It
makes no difference whether they move their carcasses more south or not; it's the same Kossel and the desecration is enormous. However, at the same time I laugh, because just after the six day war the unholy rabbinate, that time lead my Rabbi Itzhak Nissim, sadly chose that very same spot to desecrate by establishing there the building for their corrupt rabbinate court. Had the corrupt rabbinate not parked their Tumah filled klipa institution at that spot, maybe today those reform wicked witches would not have the power by themselves to grab hold of that location and cause their current desecration.

20

 Feb 01, 2016 at 07:56 AM cowdoc Says:

Reply to #19  
Anonymous Says:

I'm sad, but I also laugh. I'm sad to see theses reform movement witches desecrate the Kossel. It
makes no difference whether they move their carcasses more south or not; it's the same Kossel and the desecration is enormous. However, at the same time I laugh, because just after the six day war the unholy rabbinate, that time lead my Rabbi Itzhak Nissim, sadly chose that very same spot to desecrate by establishing there the building for their corrupt rabbinate court. Had the corrupt rabbinate not parked their Tumah filled klipa institution at that spot, maybe today those reform wicked witches would not have the power by themselves to grab hold of that location and cause their current desecration.

You certainly have a lot of hate built up.

21

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