In an unprecedented step of condemnation against the State of Israel, The Jewish Agency issued a scathing response to Sunday’s government decision to indefinitely freeze the agreement for a state-recognized egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall. The Jewish Agency also issued severe criticism of the government’s approval of a bill to grant the Chief Rabbinate a total monopoly over conversion in Israel.
In a formal resolution of the organization's Board of Governors, the Jewish Agency said that it “deplored” the cabinet decision to in effect repeal the plan, describing it as severely damaging to the values of Zionism that Israel serve as the nation state of all the Jewish people. “Whereas we deplore yesterday's decision by Government of Israel which contradicts the agreement reached with the Jewish Agency and other parties to establish the Kotel as a unifying symbol for Jews around the world, as stated: One Wall For One People… We call upon the Government of Israel to understand the gravity of its steps and reverse its course of action accordingly,” read the resolution.The statement also declared that “the Government of Israel's decisions have a deep potential to divide the Jewish people and to undermine the Zionist vision and dream of Herzl, Ben-Gurion, and Jabotinsky to establish Israel as a national home for the entire Jewish people.”The Board of Governors called on all MKs and elected public officials to take action to reverse the steps taken by the government over the Western Wall and conversion, and said that it would “continue to build a broad coalition of Israelis, together with partners from around the world, who care passionately about keeping our people united and who are committed to the unity of the Jewish people.” Earlier on Monday, the Jewish Agency cancelled a planned dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in protest of the two decisions, and leaders of the Reform Movement also cancelled their meetings with Netanyahu. The cabinet decision on Sunday to repeal the resolution creating a state-recognized egalitarian prayer section at the southern end of the Western Wall put an end to dreams of the Reform and Conservative movements for a grand site for their worshipers at the heart of the Jewish people.The conversion law will now continue on to the Knesset and, if enacted, will revoke all state recognition of Reform and Conservative conversions for the purpose of registration with the Interior Ministry.It will also revoke state recognition of Orthodox converts who converted in non-state, Orthodox rabbinical courts and the right of such converts who are not citizens to gain citizenship under the Law of Return.The cancellation of the Western Wall agreement comes as a severe blow to the Reform and Conservative movements both in Israel and the Diaspora, who had hailed the January 2016 Western Wall agreement as a historic day of recognition by the Israeli government of their forms of Judaism.Any attempt to implement the agreement will now need a new cabinet decision, something that will not be forthcoming in the current government or any government containing the ultra-Orthodox political parties United Torah Judaism and Shas.
Israel freezes plan for mixed-sex Jewish prayer site at Western Wall (credit: REUTERS)