Jews gather to pray at the Western Wall during Succot.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky said on Thursday that it is critical that all Jews feel a sense of attachment to Israel in light of challenges the entire Jewish people face.
His comments came against the background of the continued delay in implementing January’s government decision to create a state-recognized pluralist prayer space at the southern end of the Western Wall.
The delay has been caused by intense haredi opposition to the deal.
“Jewish wars over the Western Wall are not good for anyone,” Sharansky told The Jerusalem Post.
“It is very important that every Jewish community feels at home in Israel. On the one hand we’re facing the delegitimization of Israel abroad, while Jewish communities are facing the problems of assimilation. We need one another and we need to face these problems together.”
Sharansky also spoke about the ultra-Orthodox pressure to nix the deal in the months since the government approved it.
Haredi ministers ultimately voted against the agreement in January, but did not exert pressure at the time to prevent the government from adopting the plan.
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Sharansky described their volte-face as “very disappointing,” and insisted that haredi political leaders were fully aware of all details of the plan before it was approved by the government.
“They made clear to [then-cabinet secretary] Avichai Mandelblit [who brokered the deal, and is now the attorney-general] that they would allow the plan to be implemented,” he said. “Perhaps they didn’t predict the resistance from their own camp to the deal, but it was understood between everybody at the time that it would be implemented.”
The Jewish Agency chief described the meeting on Wednesday between leaders of the progressive Jewish movements and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “very tense,” but said that Netanyahu showed he understands the importance of the issue, an attitude which was felt and appreciated by those in attendance.
Sharansky also noted that a decision had been made during the meeting to start implementing the parts of the deal which can be implemented, including some physical preparations, while efforts to bridge the gaps in the contentious aspects of the plan will continue.
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