Australian Jewish community joins the demand from Lapid to secure Kotel

"The Government must ensure that police protection is provided to ensure freedom of worship at the Kotel."

 Prime Minister Yair Lapid gives first cabinet meeting address  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid gives first cabinet meeting address
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The Zionist Federation of Australia sent a letter to Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Friday urging him to “take concrete action as soon as possible,” regarding the security of Jews from Israel and the Diaspora who wish to pray at Ezrat Israel, the egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

ZFA president Jeremy Leibler’s letter was the latest in a series by Jewish Diaspora organizations that have urged Lapid to take action amid growing acts of violence against progressive worshipers at the Wall.

Last week, heads of the Conservative and Reform movements sent congratulations to the new prime minister along with bitter complaints about ongoing violence and disruption of egalitarian prayers at the Western Wall. This letter came a day after heads of national institutions, the Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod, sent a similar letter to Lapid.

Leibler referred to a service at the egalitarian prayer section this past Rosh Hodesh (new month) at which haredi (ultra-Orthodox) youths violently attacked Conservative Jews at a bar mitzvah service. One of the protesters blew his nose on a page torn from a Conservative prayer book seconds before the clash.

“Dear Mr. Prime Minister,” Leibler wrote, “On behalf of the Australian Jewish community, I write to extend my heartfelt congratulations on your commencement as the Prime Minister of Israel. In your policies and statements over a decade, you have shown that you wish to govern for all Israelis. On behalf of the Zionist movement in Australia, I urge you to take concrete action as soon as possible.”

"On behalf of the Zionist movement in Australia, I urge you to take concrete action as soon as possible"

Jeremy Leibler 
 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)

He added that he felt “compelled to express to you the deep concern felt by me personally, as well as by the community I represent, about the frequent verbal and physical attacks on people peacefully worshiping and celebrating Jewish life at the egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel.”

“I condemn outright those that participated in these attacks, as well as those who condone them, whether explicitly or otherwise. The Zionist Federation of Australia has a long-standing commitment of supporting pluralism at the Kotel and has called on successive Israeli governments to support the rights of all streams of Judaism to have access to our holiest place.

“While some differences between streams of Judaism may never be overcome, it behooves us as Jews to tolerate and respect those differences. I thank you for your strong words condemning the attack earlier this week. However, a clear pattern has emerged over many years. Despite political condemnation after each attack, the attacks continue.

“The Kotel must be a safe space for every Jew and yet Jews keep coming under attack. I believe it is time to take stronger action. It is completely unacceptable that Jews cannot freely express their Jewish identity in the State of Israel. The government must ensure that police protection is provided to ensure freedom of worship at the Kotel and that the perpetrators of these attacks must be prosecuted.”

Leibler concluded, “As the prime minister of all Israelis, and as the leader of a country so central to the identity of millions of Jews around the world, I have no doubt that you share these sentiments. And so, on behalf of the Zionist movement in Australia, I urge you to take concrete action as soon as possible.”