Western Wall Plaza..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The heads of the haredi political parties, the chief rabbis and Bayit Yehudi No. 2 Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel met on Sunday and called on the prime minister to repeal the cabinet resolution calling for a state-recognized progressive Jewish prayer area at the southern Western Wall.
The joint declaration said that the government resolution is incompatible with the stance of the Chief Rabbinate.
It also demanded that the Chief Rabbinate be allowed to appoint its own independent legal counsel to argue against the High Court of Justice petition that the progressive movements filed, asking the court to order the government to implement the deal.
Present at the meeting in Jerusalem were Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri, United Torah Judaism chairman and Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, Ariel, Religious Services Minister David Azoulay of Shas, UTJ MK Moshe Gafni and Administrator of the Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz.
The demand to repeal the resolution comes shortly after the High Court indicated earlier this month that it sees the current ban on women reading from a Torah scroll in the women’s section of the main Western Wall plaza as problematic, and asked the state to explain why women should be prevented from doing so.
Violent fracas breaks out at Western Wall over Women of the Wall (Danny Shabtai 0303) (file)
Ariel later released his own statement, saying that “we will not back down on the demand to repeal the resolution,” and that the Western Wall should be a source of unity.
Government resolutions are approved by a majority vote in the cabinet, but can be easily repealed by another cabinet vote.
The Western Wall resolution was approved a year ago on Tuesday, and would create a state-recognized progressive prayer platform at the Robinson’s Arch area at the southern end of the Western Wall, which would be governed by a committee that would include progressive Jewish representatives.
A spokesman for Bayit Yehudi chairman and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett declined to say how the minister would vote if a repeal resolution were to be brought before the cabinet.
He said however that Bennett still supports the Western Wall resolution, but that the “ball is in the prime minister’s court,” a reference to the fact that it is Netanyahu and the Prime Minister’s Office which is currently empowered to advance implementation of the plan.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on the demands of the haredi party heads and Ariel.
Reform Movement in Israel director Gilad Kariv said the majority of Israelis support the compromise resolution that was approved last year, and called on Netanyahu to implement it.
“We call on the prime minister not to capitulate to the political extortion of the haredi parties on this issue. The ties of the State of Israel with the Jewish world cannot withstand this fire sale just because of internal conflicts within the haredi world.”
Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel director Yizhar Hess said that the demands by the haredi leaders and Ariel was a result of their concern that the High Court may force the government’s hand over the Western Wall issue.
“If God forbid the resolution should be repealed, the government of Israel could sit shiva for the relationship with the Jewish Diaspora. I have no doubt that the government will not do this,” Hess said.