Jewish Diaspora leadership should increase its pressure!
Bill would anchor Orthodox practice in law at the Western Wall
Lawmakers from Shas and United Torah Judaism, as well as Likud’s Oren Hazan, David Amsalem and Miki Zohar and Jewish Home’s Betzalel Smotrich, Moti Yogev, and Nissan Slomianksy, have endorsed the proposed legislation, officially lodged on Sunday, that would anchor Orthodox practice in law throughout the entire Western Wall vicinity.
Egalitarian prayer space at Kotel under fire
It's notable that MK David Amsalem (Likud) has spoken out publicly against the Western Wall agreement between the Government and the Reform and Conservative movements and Women of the Wall. Some of his outrageously contemptuous remarks against non-Orthodox Judaism and Diaspora Jewry were translated by Hiddush and are available HERE for our readers. Given Amsalem's publc opposition to his Government's official compromise (while serving as the powerful Knesset Internal Affairs Committee Chair) and his personal endorsement of Shas's proposed legislation, one may wonder about Prime Minister Netanyahu's commitments to American Jewry. After all, why hasn't Netanyahu reined in fellow Likud member Amsalem, not to mention the ultra-Orthodox parties and the Jewish Home party? MK Amsalem is in the good company of fellow bill supporters MK Smotrich (Jewish Home) whose anti-homosexual march initiative gained broad attention and MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home) who has publicly criticized the Supreme Court and expressed his desire to destroy it with a military bulldozer.
The proposed legislation would impose a ban on a slew of practices, including mixed-gender prayer, at Robinson’s Arch, where the government has committed to build a prayer plaza for Reform and Conservative Jews. The construction of the egalitarian plaza has been put on ice since it was announced in January, due to pressure from the ultra-Orthodox political parties.
The good news is that additional voices from the Modern Orthodox community have spoken out in opposition to this legislative initiative. They support granting the Women of the Wall and the non-Orthodox streams permission to pray according to their beliefs and customs at the Western Wall, even though they do not personally agree with them. This trend is one that we have highlighted before; there is a growing understanding among Modern Orthodox rabbis and intellectuals that Jewish religious extremism is directly harmful to them as well. These leaders understand the importance of cooperation among wider circles of the Jewish world who are working to strengthen Israel's identity as both a Jewish and a democratic state.
The one whose voice has yet to be heard is Netanyahu, who is undoubtedly torn between his desire to implement the Western Wall agreement and the political pressure mounting on him to renege if he wants to continue enjoying the ultra-Orthodox parties' support.
Further, it's quite significant that the Kulanu party (a Coalition partner) has expressed its opposition to this bill, and the struggles in the political arena and the international Jewish arena are quite fascinating. Even the battle in the legal arena is becoming increasingly complex, for a group of ultra-Orthodox women has requested to join the petition regarding the right of women to hold women's prayer services at the Western Wall (filed by the Center for Women's Justice). This was not unexpected, and the State will find itself facing not only the Women of the Wall at the Supreme Court, but also a group of ultra-Orthodox women who demand ho demand not to allow the women's Torah reading, claiming that such religious expression is hurtful to them and religiously forbidden.
The one whose voice has yet to be heard is Netanyahu, who is undoubtedly torn between his desire to implement the Western Wall agreement to show Diaspora Jewry that he is committed to making them "feel at home in Israel," and the political pressure mounting on him to turn his back on the compromise and renege if he wants to continue enjoying the ultra-Orthodox parties' support. The fact that he could not even restrain the members of his own party from publicly opposing the compromise raises serious questions and concerns about its future. There is no doubt that the leadership of the Jewish Diaspora should increase its pressure and reject Netanyahu's call to be patient and calm. What is at stake is not only the Western Wall, but the future of Israel itself. Those who are trying to push Israel towards becoming a theocracy aren't being "patient and calm" - they are using all of the pressure available to them. The necessary changes will only be achieved via counter-pressure, rather than clinging to the naive view that "all will be well," as they say in Israel.