UTJ demands ‘deterrence’ of egalitarian prayer at Western Wall – report

Party will demand to enact ‘serious steps’ to deter people who ‘desecrate the holy place’ by not acting according to the rabbinate and the Kotel rabbi.

 Likud party chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands with United Torah Judaism MK Yitzchak Goldknopf a plenum session in the assembly hall of the parliament (Knesset) on November 21, 2022.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Likud party chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands with United Torah Judaism MK Yitzchak Goldknopf a plenum session in the assembly hall of the parliament (Knesset) on November 21, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

United Torah Judaism will introduce legislation to bar egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall, Army Radio reported on Thursday.

UTJ will demand enactment of “serious steps” to deter people who “desecrate the holy place” by not acting in accordance with the instructions of the rabbinate and the Kotel rabbi, the report says.

This will bar Women of the Wall and other liberal Jewish organizations from praying at the site. The demand reportedly came up during the coalition negotiations, and it is not clear what the Likud’s response was.

Negotiation tactic 

 United Torah Judaism MKs Yitzchak Goldknopf and Moshe Gafni sign a coalition agreement with Likud, December 6, 2022. (credit: UNITED TORAH JUDAISM) United Torah Judaism MKs Yitzchak Goldknopf and Moshe Gafni sign a coalition agreement with Likud, December 6, 2022. (credit: UNITED TORAH JUDAISM)

“The emerging agreement with United Torah Judaism, under which prayer at the Western Wall will only be allowed by order of the Chief Rabbinate, and the prayers of Women of the Wall will be prohibited, is a disgrace to the future Israeli government and a disgrace to the entire State of Israel,” the group said in response.

“This means the exclusion of millions of Jewish women and men from the Western Wall by the State of Israel and the explicit declaration that they are not welcome in the Jewish state, WoW said.

“We call on [presumed incoming prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu not to give in to this shameful demand of United Torah Judaism,” it said.

“Women of the Wall will continue to pray in their own way at the Western Wall as they have been doing for 34 years, once a month every month,” the organization said.

The Reform movement in a statement said that “we remind the incoming prime minister that the Western Wall is not the private yard of ultra-Orthodox Judaism only, but a holy place and a first-class national site for all Jewish men and women from Israel and the Diaspora, including millions of liberal Jews.

“Surrendering to the extreme requests of United Torah Judaism means perpetuating at the Western Wall scenes of violence, bullying and incitement against worshipers who desire an egalitarian Judaism,” the movement said.

“This is behavior that is neither Jewish nor moral. We again call on the [presumed] prime minister: implement – for all the people of Israel – a public, egalitarian and respectful plaza at the Western Wall, thereby preventing extremists from interfering with Jewish worshipers who are praying in their own way. This is how to show historical leadership that will serve all the people of Israel,” the Reform movement said.

We did not fight a war for this

Labor MK Gilad Kariv wrote on Facebook that “the paratroopers did not liberate the Western Wall for it to turn from a place for all the people of Israel into a branch of United Torah Judaism.

Netanyahu knows very well the meaning of pictures of women arrested just because they dared to wrap themselves in a tallit [prayer shawl], along with leading rabbis in the Jewish world,” he wrote.

“If he continues to acquiesce in these extreme demands, these are the scenes that he will have to deal with.”