With the Jewish Agency Board of Governors (from around the Jewish world) meeting in Jerusalem, there is no question that the Kotel crisis is in the news again. It is ironic that Diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews who believe that non-ultra-Orthodox Jews have religious rights too, see the current impasse as a crisis. The Haredi MKs see it as business as usual.
On Monday, a delegation from JAFI toured the egalitarian of the Kotel and met with Minister Tzachi Hanegbi who was assigned the task of trying to find a solution to the frozen/cancelled Kotel deal. But the Diaspora leadership, the Israeli leadership of the liberal movements and Women of the Wall have said that we will not go back to re-negotiate the deal that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reneged on.
Hanegbi told the group that the government will not implement the plan but is only willing to give the area a face-lift. That is obviously not good enough for Jewish Agency Chairmen Natan Sharansky, the Board of Governors, and the Israeli and Diaspora leadership that all negotiated the deal.
Hanegbi said that the government would have fallen if Netanyahu had not frozen the agreement. It was very clear that Diaspora relations takes a back seat to preserving the coalition that Netanyahu bought. It seems that the partners keep upping the price.
Sharansky described the situation as “regrettable.” He told JTA, “What was frozen four months ago remains frozen. We nevertheless are still committed to the principle originally articulated by Prime Minister Netanyahu; one wall for one people.”
There is a disconnect on the part of the government that this type of” business as usual” can continue and that Diaspora Jews will continue to support and contribute to Israel and that they are willing to accept crumbs after being offered a seat at the table.
Things got much worse today. At a meeting of the Knesset committee on Aliyah, Absorption and Diaspora to discuss the frozen – and not to be implemented – Kotel deal. MK Michal Malkieli (Shas) raised the question on whether non-haredi Jews should be allowed to pray according to their custom or as per Haredi rules. He said that all places have rules: “We know that there are places where dogs aren’t allowed.” This is reminiscent of the no dogs or Irish allowed signs in the US or the no dogs or Jews signs in Nazi Germany.
MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) told other MKs that the “Kotel had nothing to do with you,” and; “I don’t interfere with you visit homosexual nightclubs.”
In an official statement Women of the Wall said, “It is clear from MK Yogev’s statements that he treats the Kotel as his own private backyard like his colleagues from the ultra-Orthodox parties… His offensive attitude towards women, secular Jews, and gays and lesbians should be denounced.”
WoW board member Linda Avitan was at the Knesset hearing today. She said, “It was clear that most of the people there were sincere in their concern regarding Diaspora Jews and they demonstrated understanding of the positive impact of the Kotel agreement and the destructive impact of the ‘freeze’.”
She explained that Diaspora Jews feel that they are being used for financial aid and do not understand the lack of religious freedom for Jews in Israel. “The Knesset members who are insisting on cancelling the agreement do not understand this impact or are just so arrogant as to think that they don’t need the Diaspora Jews believing that they mean nothing to them”
It is this type of attitude that led to the haredi riots against registering for the draft that shut down the main roads going into the city, major intersections, and the Light Rail in Jerusalem and paralyzed other cities two weeks ago.
It is this type of attitude that led to the assaulting of the 50 1967 paratroopers who liberated the wall when they brought a Torah scroll into the Kotel plaza on Rosh Hodesh in support of WoW and the Kotel agreement by the Western Wall Heritage Foundations’ goon squad. Former IDF battalion commander Micha Eshet was wrestled to the ground after he refused to let go of the Torah he was holding. He said, “We did not conquer the Western Wall solely for the ultra-Orthodox. We liberated the wall for both men and woman and we can’t stand by any longer when the Wall is managed as an ultra-Orthodox synagogue. “
It is this type of attitude that allows prayer to be interrupted by a mob of face-hidden “Taliban” girls who try to drown us out with assault whistles and screams every month. Or by the men who call us whores and Nazis, while the Western Wall heritage guards do nothing to stop them.
The division between Diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews is growing larger. The only way to stem this breach from becoming unrepairable is for the government to keep their word. This is the uncomfortable truth.