Reform, Masorti movements to hold prayer services at upper Western Wall plaza

In June, the Reform and Masorti movements held a mixed gender service at the Western Wall to underline their dissatisfaction with the government’s failure to move forward on this issue.

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July 3, 2016 18:25
3 minute read.
The Kotel

ULTRA-ORTHODOX MEN walk past soldiers at the Kotel in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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In a step designed to heap more pressure on the government, progressive Jewish groups have announced that they will hold prayer services in the upper plaza of the Western Wall until the government-approved plan for an egalitarian prayer space at the site is implemented.

On June 16, the Reform and Masorti movements held a mixed-gender service at the Western Wall to underline their dissatisfaction with the government’s failure to move forward on this issue, leading to fierce protests.

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But the progressive Jewish movements now say they will hold regular such services in the upper plaza until the agreement to create a large, state-recognized egalitarian prayer space at the southern end of the Western Wall is carried out.

On Monday, at the initiative of the Hartman Institute, a pluralist education organization, an afternoon pluralist prayer service will be held at the Western Wall and will be led by President of the Reform Movement in North America Rabbi Rick Jacobs, together with Rabbi Donniel Hartman, head of the institute, and others pluralist leaders.

On Thursday morning, the Reform and Masorti (Conservative) Movements will hold a morning prayer service in the upper plaza.

The upper plaza in the main Western Wall complex is a public space and can legally be used for prayer services, including egalitarian prayer, but the haredi and national-religious opponents are extremely hostile to anything other than Orthodox prayer at this area of the site.

Last week, chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef together with leaders of the haredi political parties met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and demanded again that there be no governmental recognition of non-Orthodox prayer rights at the Western Wall.

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A plan approved in January this year stipulated that a current egalitarian prayer section at the southern end of the Western Wall be greatly expanded and be granted formal government recognition as a site reserved for pluralist prayer.

The haredi parties allowed the agreement to pass, although they voted against it, but have since backtracked on this stance and are now opposing any accommodation for progressive Jews at the site.

“For three years, the government of Israel conducted negotiations for an arrangement at the Western Wall, and we negotiated in good faith,” said Yizhar Hess, director of the Masorti Movement in Israel.

“We conceded on many issues, including things that perhaps should not have been compromised, and the agreement was signed. The government of Israel voted on it and approved it, but now is simply not implementing it.

“Therefore we are forced to go back to our original demand, an egalitarian, pluralist prayer section next to the men’s and women’s sections at the Western Wall. Our prayer services will be conducted on a regular basis and in the end, as happened with the Women of the Wall, such services will become the custom of the site.”
“For three years, the government of Israel conducted negotiations for an arrangement at the Western Wall, and we negotiated in good faith,” said Yizhar Hess, director of the Masorti Movement in Israel.

“We conceded on many issues, including things that perhaps should not have been compromised, and the agreement was signed. The government of Israel voted on it and approved it, but now is simply not implementing it.

“Therefore we are forced to go back to our original demand, an egalitarian, pluralist prayer section next to the men and women’s sections at the Western Wall. Our prayer services will be conducted on a regular basis and in the end, as happened with the Women of the Wall, such services will become the custom of the site.”

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