Impatience grows as Western Wall Agreement implementation delays

The Women of the Wall are eager to set a deadline for the implementation of the Kotel Deal and continue working to achieve their goal of equality at the Western Wall for all Jewish people.

An egalitarian prayer service is led by the Women of the Wall near the Western Wall last month. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
An egalitarian prayer service is led by the Women of the Wall near the Western Wall last month.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Various religious streams, the Women of the Wall, and Diaspora Jewish leaders are “waiting impatiently” for the government to start implementing the 2016 Western Wall agreement, sources among them said on Thursday.

Cabinet secretary Shalom Shlomo met with the streams’ representatives two weeks ago and with Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai. The Supreme Court has also required both the government and the proponents of the deal to report to the court on the implementation of the deal that was passed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government but then abandoned. 

“Shalom Shlomo was supposed to renew the technical arrangements concerning the egalitarian pavilion,” Shai said. “This was the essence of the government’s answer to the Supreme Court. We would like to see the Netanyahu outline being implemented.”

Women of the Wall executive director Yochi Rappeport said the government merely told the court it would renovate the Robinson’s Arch archaeological area, but did not provide deadlines. Neither did Shlomo in the meeting, which she attended.

“We demanded a deadline and haven’t received one,” she said. “That is the problem. But there is work behind the scenes to achieve our goal of equality at the Western Wall for all Jewish people.”

PRAYING AT the Western Wall – five years after first being approved, the Kotel Agreement remains suspended but not forgotten. (credit: Courtesy)PRAYING AT the Western Wall – five years after first being approved, the Kotel Agreement remains suspended but not forgotten. (credit: Courtesy)

The Women of the Wall must give its response to the government in the Supreme Court by January 5.

The Western Wall agreement would have seen the current prayer platform for non-Orthodox prayers at the Robinson Arch area at the southern end of the Western Wall designated in law as a prayer space for non-Orthodox worship, and would have given representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements a place on the site’s governing committee. At the same time, the central Western Wall plaza would be designated in law as a place for Orthodox prayer only.

The current egalitarian prayer site is run by the Masorti (Conservative) Movement and its services are funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, New Jersey. The Federation’s Israel director, Amir Shacham, said there were mixed feelings among his federation about how and when to push Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government.

“My federation is in a wait-and-see mode, not in a fighting mode,” Shacham said. “But there are voices saying this is an opportunity to challenge the change government on the Kotel and other issues related to pluralism and Israel-Diaspora relations.”

Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on November 8 that the Kotel agreement must be implemented by the time Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, who authored the plan, leaves office on January 31. But on December 13, Lapid indicated that the deal will not be implemented swiftly.

“I support the plan, but it isn’t possible to do everything all at once,” Lapid said. “We have four years and we will advance a lot of things during them.”

Shlomo denied that the government wanted to delay implementation “for a substantive period of time,” and that the issue was “being dealt with.” But he concurred with Lapid that it is not possible to achieve all the government’s goals at once.

Meanwhile, candidates for Jewish Agency chairman were invited on Thursday for a second job interview.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.