Jewish Leaders Demand Right to Pray at Western Wall

Leaders are demanding Netanyahu allow a prayer space for the non-Orthodox Jews at Western Wall.

The Western Wall is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is an ancient ordinary limestone wall, however, Jews consider it as the holiest site in the Jewish faith, because of its connection to the Temple Mount. Last January, the Israeli Cabinet took a historic decision to make a prayer space for the non-Orthodox Jews, and for mixed-gender ceremonies, at the site. The new prayer space was supposed to be made along the Western Wall's southern edge, separated from the existing plaza prayer site where women and men pray separately.

Jewish Leaders Demand Right to Pray at Western Wall.[/tweetthis]

The decision has been the outcome of three years of negotiation between the government of Israel, the Reform and Conservative movement's American and Israeli representatives, and the North America and Women of the Wall Jewish Federations. However, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister froze the decision under pressure from Haredi lawmakers in his coalition government. On Sunday, the rabbis who head two of the largest bodies of Judaism in the United States, the Reform, and the Conservative movements sent a letter to the government of Israel asking them to honor the deal announced last January. They said that they will take their case to the Supreme Court of Israel.

Union for Reform Judaism's head, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism's head, Rabbi Steve Wernick wrote in the letter that the government of Israel has not honored the deal yet. The liberal Jews, while trying to pray at the wall, particularly the women wearing the prayer shawls that are worn by men traditionally, are continuously harassed by the ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups. They look towards the day when the headlines would read how Prime Minister Netanyahu courageously honored the commitment that he made to them, and to a day when the headlines would not talk about the demeaning stories of ultra-Orthodox actions. The letter also reminds the Prime Minster about the promise that he made to the Jewish American leaders while he addressed them last year, that as Israel's Prime Minister he would ensure that Jews – the Orthodox Jews, the Conservative Jews, and the Reform Jews, would be able to feel at home and at peace in Israel.

Israel and North America is home to majority of the 14 million Jews worldwide. Except in Israel, there are no restrictions for the Jews to pray in a mixed gender setting. Also, women rabbis could be found outside Israel as well. Most of the Jews in Israel aren't Orthodox. However, it is the Orthodox Jews that has an upper hand in the religious matters in Israel.


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