US Jews Angry Over Israeli Decision On Western Wall Deal
An Israeli government decision on freezing a previous deal to create an egalitarian prayer space at Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall, sparked angry reactions among both US Jews and some in Israel. The decision came after pressure from ultra-Orthodox religious parties which are part of the government ruling coaltion. The Jewish Agency, which represents world Jewry, and is currently holding its annual Board of Governors Meeting in Jerusalem, cancelled a dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in anger over the decision. The move indefinitely freezes a plan to build an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, next to the current men’s and women’s areas. The egalitarian prayer space would have allowed Reform and Conservative Jews, who make up more than 80 percent of the six million Jews in the US, to pray according to their custom. “Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to say “no” to his previous “yes” is an unconscionable insult to the majority of world Jewry,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union of Reform Judaism, said in a statement. “The stranglehold that the Chief Rabbinate and the ultra-Orthodox parties have on Israel and the disenfranchisement of the majority of Jews in Israel and the world must – and will – be ended.” In a separate decision, the government also passed a preliminary law that would revoke all state recognition of Reform and Conservative conversions for the purpose of registration with the Interior Ministry. If passed by the entire Knesset, it would be yet another blow to non-Orthodox Jews.