“‘We’re not touching it’: PM, Kahana shelve plan for Western Wall egalitarian plaza – Bennett, religious affairs minister agree to suspend implementation of compromise for pluralistic prayer at site, as ultra-Orthodox and Likud use controversy to fire up opposition”
So reads the headline of today’s (December 12, 2021) article in The Times of Israel that I urge you to read if you are concerned at all about the integrity of Israeli democracy, equal rights for Jews around the world, and religious pluralism in the Jewish State. Every Israeli and Diaspora Jew ought to be worried that the Israeli government refuses to do the right thing on behalf of world Jewry.
Political expediency sadly has given way (again) to the most extreme right-wing minority voices in Israel. The “Western Wall Compromise” of 2016, worked out painstakingly over a three-year period and led by former Jewish Agency Director Natan Sharansky at the behest of Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the then-approval of the majority of Knesset members, would have created a dignified prayer space at the Kotel just south of the traditional prayer space under Robinson’s Arch that was equal in size and significance to the traditional prayer space, and Jews from around the world would not have had to abide by the constrictive rules and regulations of extremist right-wing Haredi rabbis in order to pray and gather together peacefully without being accosted by screaming screeching coffee-throwing bullies who have for decades been aided and abetted in their narrow-minded intolerant vision of what constitutes Judaism by their self-righteous rabbis.
That most sacred space in Judaism, the Western Wall (“Kotel”), belongs to the entire Jewish people, not just to the most extremist Jewish fringe that has co-opted the space and plaza and defined it all as its own ultra-Orthodox shul. The government compromise of 2016 would have assured Jewish religious rights for all Jews in Israel and around the world by creating an alternate prayer space that could be used without interference by Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and egalitarian Jews, Women of the Wall, and any Jew who wished to pray freely and with dignity at this most sacred site in all of Judaism. The Kotel compromise is NOT strictly a Jewish State matter nor is it at its core a political matter. Rather, it addresses the legitimate religious needs of the Jewish people as a whole without infringing on the rights and needs of orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews in a democratic State of Israel.
Democracy, religious pluralism, debate, compromise, and Klal Yisrael were sadly sacrificed on the altar of political expediency and right-wing fanaticism by this government’s decision to keep its hands off this sensitive but important matter for world Jewry.