US Jewish leaders urge Netanyahu to resolve Kotel controversy

The issue surrounding a more egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall faces opposition by the ultra-Orthodox in Israel.

November 14, 2016 18:00
1 minute read.
Israel western wall

Conflict at the Kotel. Members of the Reform Movement clash with Orthodox worshipers at the Western Wall last week. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Leaders of the North American Jewish community on Monday agreed to write a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the issue of the unimplemented government decision to create an egalitarian prayer space at the southern end of the Western Wall.

The Jewish Federations of North America board of trustees voted in favor of the decision at their annual General Assembly, in an effort to underscore the urgency felt with regard to the implementation of the government resolution on the Kotel.

The resolution for the creation of a pluralist prayer section at the Western Wall was approved by the cabinet in January, but has been frozen due to fierce opposition by the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties.
Violent fracas breaks out at Western Wall over Women of the Wall (Danny Shabtai 0303) (file)

The issue has been a major source of disappointment and frustration for US Jewry, much of which wishes to see a more pluralist approach accepted in Israel.

The letter begins with an affirmation of the federations’ “unwavering love for the State of Israel,” as well as their appreciation for Netanyahu’s efforts to advance the establishment of an egalitarian prayer space and make room for a diversity of Jewish religious practice and expression.

“We are committed to Israel’s strength and security as we are to her economic and social prosperity,” the letter said. “We are sure you can understand the concerns we hear from many in our communities who struggle to understand why the implementation of the historic government resolution to create a space at the Kotel where all Jews are free to worship appears stalled.”

Citing Netanyahu’s often-repeated statement that there is “one wall for one people,” a declaration he made at last year’s General Assembly, the federations said that their communities hold dearly to that statement and expect to see it realized.

“On behalf of the Federation movement we represent, we thank you for your leadership on this matter and look forward to your ongoing efforts to make clear to millions of Jews in Israel and around the world that, in spite of our differences, we are one people,” the letter said.

In recent weeks, Netanyahu has urged Diaspora Jews to be patient on the issue, requesting that they refrain from public discussion on the matter and allow the government to work on it quietly.

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