Jewish institutions call on Lapid to prevent violence at Western Wall

Heads of Jewish institutions to PM Lapid: "Concrete actions should be taken so that Jews of all streams feel at home at the Kotel."

 HAREDI PROTESTORS scuffle with police as the Women of the Wall movement holds Rosh Hodesh prayers at the Western Wall, in March. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
HAREDI PROTESTORS scuffle with police as the Women of the Wall movement holds Rosh Hodesh prayers at the Western Wall, in March.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Heads of the national institutions and the Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod have sent a letter to Prime Minister Yair Lapid asking him to react to the violence at the Western Wall. In the letter sent on July 4, heads of the organizations wished Lapid a "mazal tov," on assuming the post of prime minister, but added that they wrote this letter to "express our concern on a very pressing matter."

They related to the prayer service on the past Rosh Chodesh (new month) at the egalitarian prayer section, where haredi (ultra-Orthodox) youth were physically violent towards Reform and Conservative Jews at a bar mitzvah service, one of them blowing his nose on a page torn from a Conservative siddur (prayer book) seconds before the clash.

"At this uniquely important and special day for the young boy, surrounded by his friends and family who had traveled from the United States to the holiest site for the Jewish people, his bar mitzvah celebration was viciously attacked by protesters who apparently object to the manner of prayer at the site."

They added that "the determined young man bravely attempted to continue with his bar mitzvah while protesters screamed curses at him, including 'Christian' and 'Nazi,' and even tore up siddurim." The leaders explained that they understand that there are "differences of opinion," within the Knesset and even within the government about the Kotel Agreement.

The leaders explained that they know that Lapid has always supported the Kotel agreement but stressed that the issue is regarding the “derech eretz” (civility) of Israelis "welcoming Jews from around the world who come to celebrate their most cherished smachot (joyful occasions) in the Jewish state, follow all the established rules for such an event, engage in no provocation, demonstrate nothing but 'ahavat Yisrael' (love of Jews) and are nevertheless subjected to conduct that should embarrass every Jew of every level or style of Jewish practice."

 Prime Minister Yair Lapid on his first visit as PM, to France, July 5, 2022.  (credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO) Prime Minister Yair Lapid on his first visit as PM, to France, July 5, 2022. (credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO)

"No effort to unite or strengthen the ties between Israel and the Jews of the Diaspora can be remotely successful while such behavior is allowed to continue," the leaders wrote. "We respectfully feel that immediate actions should be taken to - at the very least - ensure the safety, security and well-being of all those who come to the entire Kotel area, as well as to make certain that all worshipers are accorded the same level of respect we would expect if this were our own families - because it is our own Jewish family."

Israel must "accept responsibility"

From their perspective, they said, the government of Israel should "accept responsibility" to stop the "completely unacceptable behavior that has been exhibited recently." They stressed that they are looking for actions "at this stage. Words of support are not enough and concrete actions should be taken so that Jews of all streams feel at home, safe and welcome at the Kotel and in Israel."

The leaders who have signed the letter are Jewish Agency Board of Governors chairman Michael Siegal and its incoming chairman Mark Wilf, WZO chairman and Jewish Agency Executive acting chairman Yaakov Hagoel and the agency's incoming chairman Doron Almog, Jewish Federations of North America chairwoman Julie Platt and its president and CEO Eric Fingerhut, and Keren Hayesod World Board of Trustees chairman Steven Lowy and its world chairman Sam Grundwerg.