Netanyahu Remains Committed to Egalitarian Prayer at Western Wall

Prime minister's office confirms support following attempts by ultra-Orthodox leaders to block or change the government-approved compromise.

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American and Israeli Reform rabbis pray in the Western Wall, February 25, 2016.
American and Israeli Reform rabbis pray in the Western Wall, February 25, 2016.Credit: AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office released a statement confirming that Netanyahu still supports the compromise on the future of egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall.

The statement comes in the wake of attempts by ultra-Orthodox leaders to change or block the compromise, which Israel’s cabinet approved in January. The compromise commits to expanding the non-Orthodox section of the Western Wall while solidifying Haredi control of the main plaza, which is run like a traditional Orthodox synagogue.

Several Haredi leaders have publicly opposed the plan recently. Religious Services Minister David Azoulay, of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, has said he will not sign off on the deal — a move the cabinet can circumvent. Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is composing its own alternative plan, which will reportedly omit any recognition of non-Orthodox Jewish movements.

On Sunday, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar said the government’s decision on the site “is no less serious than if they would give it over to be destroyed.”

In response, officials in Netanyahu’s office released a statement on Monday saying “the Prime Minister is committed to the government decision.” According to the statement, the prime minister asked those wishing to amend the decision to submit their responses to him in two to three weeks.

On Monday, Israeli Conservative Movement CEO Yizhar Hess released a statement calling on Netanyahu to uphold the decision.

“I’m full of hope that the prime minister won’t back off from the historic agreement that was reached,” the statement said. “I hope he will know to navigate between these challenges and will be able to implement the agreement soon.”

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