FIRST LADY Melania Trump stands near the Western Wall in the site’s women’s section yesterday.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Orthodox MKs and lobby groups were quick to jump on the fact that US President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, and daughter Ivanka went to gender separate sections of the Western Wall during their visit on Monday, and said that progressive Jews should behave in a similar manner.
In presidential first, Trump prays at Jerusalem's Western Wall (credit: REUTERS)
Their comments come against the background of fierce opposition from the haredi sector and elements with the National Religious community to the establishment of a government-recognized egalitarian prayer area for progressive Jewish groups at the southern end of the Western Wall.
Trump entered the men’s section of the site together with Western Wall administrator Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, while Melania and Ivanka went to the women’s section accompanied by the rabbi’s wife, Yael.
United Torah Judaism MK Yakov Asher said it is “very frustrating that while the president of the US and his wife respect the customary principles at the holiest place for Jews, the Reformers and their helpers crassly trample on those customs.”
The Liba Center conservative National Religious lobbying group said the president’s actions demonstrated how the Western Wall should be respected “in light of the thousands of years of tradition.
The group said it hopes “fringe elements trying to change the customs of the site and harm the holiness of the Western Wall and the unity of the Jewish people will learn from the behavior of President Trump.”
The Liba group also called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel the government resolution that would create the egalitarian prayer section, arguing that Trump’s respect toward customs at the Western Wall demonstrated that doing so would not harm US-Israel relations.
“The president knows how to value the preservation of a tradition of thousands of years and remembers who worked against him during the US election campaign,” referring to progressive Jewish support for Hillary Clinton and opposition to Trump’s presidential campaign.
Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel director Yizhar Hess said in response that the opponents to the egalitarian prayer section had “apparently become confused,” adding that the government resolution would give the Orthodox establishment complete control of the central plaza with the separate men’s and women’s sections.
“We simply want them to finally take their hands of the ‘Ezrat Yisrael,’ the egalitarian prayer section, which belongs to the entire Jewish people,” he said.
The liberal Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah National Religious group dismissed the linkage made by Liba and Asher of Trump’s visit and the dispute over the Western Wall, saying that Jews of all denominations should be afforded a place to pray in accordance with their own customs at the site.
“It’s unthinkable that Jews who observe Jewish law, including ourselves, should sit quietly by when millions of Jews see that the State of Israel does not allow them self-expression at the site which is meant to unite the entire Jewish people,” the group said.
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