US Jews 'feel they were slapped in the face' by Israel, says Bennett

Israel's Diaspora Affairs and Education Minister Naftali Bennett says situation with Diaspora dire, speaking to US leaders to resolve crisis.

June 27, 2017 11:47
2 minute read.

Naftali Bennett addresses government decisions on Western Wall, conversion

Naftali Bennett addresses government decisions on Western Wall, conversion


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Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday morning that Israel’s relations with the Diaspora was in a dire state following conversations he held with Diaspora leaders who told him they feel unwanted in the Jewish state and like they had been slapped in the face.

Bennett was referring to the current crisis with the leaders of Diaspora Jewry over the cancellation of the Western Wall agreement and controversial legislation on conversion. 

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Taking to Twitter, Bennett insisted that US Jews were “brothers” and welcomed and loved in Israel, but admitted that the government had made mistakes in dealing with these issues.

“The representatives of US Jewry feel they were slapped in the face by the Israeli government and that they are apparently no longer welcome here,” said Bennett.

“Of course this isn't true," he underlined. "The Jews of the US are welcomed and loved, they are our brothers. But mistakes were made regarding timing and the way things were done."

He also said that there was an “apparent campaign of misinformation” claiming that the current egalitarian section at the southern end of the Western Wall was now closed and that “millions of Jews can’t convert now.”

It is unclear which allegations Bennett was referring to, although he described them as false.

The program now is to listen and open a dialogue and to “reduce rumors," he added.    

“American Jews are a fundamental pillar of the State of Israel. Israeli and American Jews will remain united,” Bennett added at a press conference of the Education Ministry Tuesday morning, saying that he and other government leaders would speak with the leaders of US Jewry “to bring a resolution to this crisis.”

Meanwhile on Tuesday, an emergency session of the Knesset Caucus on Strengthening the Jewish World was held, in which Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky and American Jewish leaders spoke, along with Knesset members from across the political spectrum. The event was organized by the chairman of the caucus, Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai.

The cabinet decision Sunday to repeal the resolution creating a state-recognized egalitarian prayer section at the southern end of the Western Wall puts an end to dreams of the Reform and Conservative movements for a grand site for their worshipers at the heart of the Jewish people.

The move comes as a severe blow to the Reform and Conservative movements both in Israel and the Diaspora, who had hailed the agreement reached in January 2016 on the Western Wall as a historic day of recognition by the Israeli government of their forms of Judaism.

The conversion law will continue on to the Knesset and, if enacted, will revoke all state recognition of Reform and Conservative conversions for the purpose of registration with the Interior Ministry.

It will also revoke state recognition of Orthodox converts who converted in non-state, Orthodox rabbinical courts and the right of such converts who are not citizens to gain citizenship under the Law of Return.

A host of Jewish leaders in Israel and the Diaspora, including the heads of the Reform and Conservative movements, strongly denounced the government’s decisions as a crisis of relations brewed in the days following their announcement. Staff and Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

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