Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government approved allocations of NIS 110 million over five years for the Western Wall at Sunday's cabinet meeting, but not one shekel for its egalitarian prayer site that is in disrepair.
At the start of Sunday's cabinet meeting, @naftalibennett said his government would be investing 110 million shekels is upgrades to the Western Wall, but source close to Bennett told me none of it is for the egalitarian prayer site that is in desperate need of immediate repairs.— Gil Hoffman (@Gil_Hoffman) January 16, 2022
Cabinet secretary Shalom Shlomo met with Reform Conservative, Women of the Wall and Jewish Federations of North America representatives last Monday and told them he favored allocations to upgrade the egalitarian prayer site but implementing the 2016 Western Wall agreement would take time.
"[The current allocations] have nothing to do with the Kotel framework," a source close to Bennett said. "This funding is intended for the regular operation of the Western Wall."
Deputy World Zionist Organization head Yizhar Hess, the former executive director of Israel's Masorti (Conservative) Movement, blasted the decision.
"The government's decision was shocking," he said. "How can it be that such a large sum is being allocated to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation [which administers the Western Wall], while the Ezrat Israel [egalitarian prayer site] remains shameful and abandoned. This is a tremendous missed opportunity for democracy, equality and Zionism. Instead of repairing the tension with world Jewry by implementing the Kotel deal, they leave them empty handed again."
Something I don't get. Yesterday Israeli politicians claimed to stand with a Reform synagogue in Texas where congregants had been taken hostage. Today those same politicians approved NIS 110m to upgrade the Kotel but not a penny for the egalitarian plaza. Am I missing something?— Yaakov Katz (@yaakovkatz) January 16, 2022
The allocations will go to physical upgrades of the Orthodox prayer site, making it more handicapped accessible, developing educational programs and encouraging more visits of students, soldiers and new immigrants.
The move was seen as preempting a no-confidence motion about the Kotel filed by Shas that will be voted on in the Knesset plenum on Monday. Bennett defended the decision in the cabinet meeting.
"The Kotel is one of the most important sites for the Jewish people," he said. "This will enable millions more tourists to visit."