U.S. Jewish Leaders to Attend Emergency Knesset Session Amid Western Wall Crisis

Knesset Caucus for Strengthening the Jewish People's last-minute session will try to address the outrage of Jewish leaders as crisis with Israeli government heats up

Women of the Wall pray with a Torah scroll for the first time at the Western Wall, Jerusalem. 11 February 2016
Michal Fattal

A Knesset caucus devoted to strengthening Israel’s ties with Diaspora Jewry will hold a special emergency session on Tuesday morning to address the crisis over recent actions taken by the Israeli government that have enraged large segments of the Jewish world.

On Sunday, the cabinet voted to suspend a plan to create a permanent space for egalitarian prayer at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, Judaism holiest site. Later in the day, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted to advance a controversial bill that would give the Orthodox-controlled Chief Rabbinate a complete monopoly over conversions undertaken in Israel.

The Knesset Caucus for Strengthening the Jewish People is headed by Nachman Shai of the oppositionist Zionist Union and Robert Ilatov of Yisrael Beiteinu, a party in Netanyahu's coalition. The co-chairs decided to take advantage of the fact that many Jewish leaders are in Jerusalem this week attending the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting to hold this special session, which was organized at the last minute. Although Yisrael Beiteinu is part of the coalition, its two ministers voted against the government decision to scrap the Western Wall deal and the party appealed the decision to move the conversion bill forward.

The two decisions taken by the government on Sunday have sparked widespread outrage in the Jewish world. In an unprecedented move, the Jewish Agency cancelled a dinner that was scheduled for Monday evening with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Board of Governors also issued a resolution calling on the government to revoke its decisions.

Attending Tuesday’s emergency caucus meeting will be Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, the newly installed Chairman of the Board of Governors Michael Siegal, Chairman of the Board of Trustees the Jewish Federations of North America Richard Sandler, Chairman of the World Zionist Organization Avraham Duvdevani, and Chairman of the Keren Hayesod-UIA Board of Trustees David Koschitzky.