The Jewish Community Federation of Richmond (JCFR) and its Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) note with deep disappointment two Israeli Government decisions announced Sunday, June 25. The first suspended a government resolution of January 2016 to create a permanent, egalitarian area for non-Orthodox Jewish prayer at the Western Wall. The second further cements Jewish conversion authority among the ultra-Orthodox government bureaucracies. These developments are significant and troubling.
Led by Chair of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky, Jewish Federations nationally have worked with various Jewish denominations, organizations and the Israeli government to create an egalitarian area for non-Orthodox, Jewish prayer at the Western Wall. Implementation of this plan has now been halted due to political pressure. Sharansky said:
As Chair of The Jewish Agency for Israel, and on behalf of our partners, I must express my deep disappointment at today's decision by the Government of Israel to suspend the implementation of its own decision to establish a dignified space for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall. Five years ago, the prime minister asked me to lead a joint effort to bring about a workable formula that would transform the Western Wall into, in his own words, ‘one wall for one people.’ After four years of intensive negotiations, we reached a solution that was accepted by all major denominations and was then adopted by the government and embraced by the world's Jewish communities. Today's decision signifies a retreat from that agreement and will make our work to bring Israel and the Jewish world closer together increasingly more difficult. The Jewish Agency nevertheless remains staunchly committed to that work and to the principle of one wall for one people.
The Hebrew Prophet Isaiah envisioned gathering all people to worship at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, “Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7)
JCFR President, Nannette Shor, noted, “The sad irony of a minority ultra-Orthodox Jewish population exerting its political influence to banish other Jews from worshiping freely at the Wall — the holiest site where Jews can pray — is only topped by the capitulation of the Israeli government in suspending a decision which created prayer spaces acceptable to all of the interested parties. The JCFR urges the Government of Israel to reconsider yesterday’s decision, to reactivate the resolution of January 2016, and to act swiftly in its implementation.”
The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is a portion of the retaining wall upon which the Jewish Holy Temple (most recently destroyed in 70 C.E.) stood.