Netanyahu's Meeting With ultra-Orthodox Over Western Wall Prayer Space Cancelled

Prime minister was scheduled to meet with ultra-Orthodox leaders due to their disappointment regarding the recent accomplishments of the Reform and Conservative movements.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Litzman
Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with Israel's chief rabbis and the heads of the ultra-Orthodox parties over the government's decision to establish an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall that was scheduled for Sunday has been cancelled.

The rabbis were asked to propose an alternative arrangement to the one that was approved by the government at the end of January regarding the prayer space in Jerusalem's
Old City.

The meeting with Netanyahu was called for due to the disappointment of the ultra-Orthodox community, particularly in ultra-Orthodox media, regarding the accomplishments of the Reform and Conservative movements. These include a government decision on January 31 to establish an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall to accommodate the liberal movement and a Supreme Court ruling that Conservative and Reform Jews can use Jewish ritual baths (mikvehs) operated by the religious councils.

Sources close to the prime minister said that Netanyahu and the rabbis agreed to cancel the meeting. The alternative agreement that the rabbis are working on isn’t meant to cancel out the government's January decision, they added. The rabbis were asked to present their alternative plan within two to three weeks.

On Friday, Health Minister and United Torah Judaism chair Yaakov Litzman threatened that his faction of the party, Agudat Yisrael, would quit the coalition without legislation aimed at limiting the power of non-Orthodox movements in Israel and solidifying Orthodox Judaism's dominance.

Litzman made his ultimatum public at a fundraiser for the Gur Hasidic sect on Friday, saying that, "Agudat Yisrael will quit the government if a law is not approved to reduce all of the reformists," according to the website bhol.co.il.