The sign pointing to the egalitarian section of the Western Walll..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A sign indicating the way to the pluralist prayer section at the southern end of the Western Wall was removed on Sunday morning by officials from the Jerusalem Municipality.
The sign directed visitors and progressive Jewish worshipers to what is known as the “Ezrat Yisrael” prayer platform at the Robinson’s Arch area of the Western Wall.
The site has existed as a place for progressive Jewish prayer since 2000, but was substantially upgraded in 2013 by then-Diaspora affairs minister Naftali Bennett, after which the sign to the site was installed just outside the entrance to the main Western Wall complex.
A national-religious lobbying group called B’Tzedek is reportedly behind the effort to have the sign removed.
Several hardline groups and activists from the national-religious community, including Ateret Kohanim and the Liba Center, have been seeking to thwart the implementation of the Western Wall government resolution to further upgrade the pluralist prayer section and grant it government recognition as a prayer site for progressive Jewish worship.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform Movement in Israel, said that removing the sign was part of the campaign of “haredi and nationalist elements” to prevent the implementation of the Western Wall resolution.
“This is a direct result of the foot-dragging of the prime minister’s government over the implementation of the plan and of the campaign of incitement against millions of Reform and Conservative Jews,” said Kariv. “This step only strengthens the request of the non-Orthodox movements for the High Court of Justice to intervene on this issue.”
The director of the Masorti Movement in Israel Attorney Yizhar Hess, criticized Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat for giving in to “the pressure of various elements,” saying the removal of the sign was “a crass poke in the eye against the non-Orthodox parts of the Jewish Diaspora.”
The Jerusalem Municipality issued a statement in response: “An illegal sign was installed at the site without the required permit.
Because of a complaint that reached the Jerusalem Municipality, the Company for the Development of east Jerusalem was requested to remove the sign. It was suggested to the company that it file a formal request for a permit to [re-]install the sign.”
Bennett’s office declined to respond to inquiries regarding the incident.