Gov't skips deadline to end Kotel debacle; PM to meet Diaspora leaders

Despite not having opposed the deal creating a large, government-recognized pluralist prayer section at the southern end of the Western Wall.

May 30, 2016 19:01
2 minute read.
Women of the Wall with Torah scroll in women's section of the Western Wall, March 11, 2016

Women of the Wall with Torah scroll in women's section of the Western Wall, March 11, 2016. (photo credit: WOMEN OF THE WALL)

Despite the passing of a 60-day deadline for proposing changes to the plan for a pluralistic prayer section at the Western Wall, a solution to the standoff between the haredi leadership and the non-Orthodox movements is not yet in the offing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Wednesday with North American Jewish leaders, including the rabbinic leadership of the Reform and Conservative movements, to discuss the continued standoff.

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There are expectations that he will present the leadership with a new proposal for how the pluralistic section will look at the Western Wall.

At the end of March, Netanyahu appointed his bureau chief, David Sharan, to formulate new proposals to bridge the gap between the plan approved by the government in January and the demands subsequently made by Israel’s haredi political and religious leadership.

According to a source within the United Torah Judaism Party, Sharan, who is now the cabinet secretary, has yet to make concrete proposals to the different sides and an agreement is still not close.

Despite not having opposed the deal, which will create a large, government-recognized pluralistic prayer section at the southern end of the Western Wall, haredi religious and political leaders denounced the plan after it was approved, and demanded changes.

On Sunday, Sharan met with representatives of Women of the Wall and the non-Orthodox movements in Israel to update them on the progress of his deliberations. On Wednesday, Jerry Silverman – the president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America – will join the Reform and Conservative leadership during their scheduled meeting with Netanyahu to further discuss the issue.

On Monday, Health Minister and UTJ chairman Yaakov Litzman, Interior Minister and Shas chairman Aryeh Deri, and senior UTJ MK Moshe Gafni visited the Western Wall and the adjoining archeological garden, where the administrator of the site, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, explained the details of the plan to the politicians.

Following the approval of the plan in January, heavy pressure was exerted on the haredi political leadership against the deal, leading them to demand changes.

In April though, Gafni said his party might be willing to accept the agreement if the proposal for a common entrance to the Western Wall complex for both Orthodox and non-Orthodox worshipers was removed from the plan.

The stipulation of a joint entrance for all visitors is one of the critical demands of the Reform and Conservative movements and the Women of the Wall organization, and is likely to be the main sticking point in reaching a new compromise.

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