After UNESCO passed a resolution which denied the Jewish connection to holy sites in Jerusalem last October, Rep. Jerrold "Jerry" Nadler was among a group of Jewish American members of Congress who penned an angry letter to the United Nation's cultural organization. Their letter accused UNESCO of "brazen disrespect" to the Jewish community and stated that the resolution "denies Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall."
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Nadler, a Democrat who represents a New York district with a large Jewish population, was reminded of that letter earlier this week, when many of his constituents called to share with him their anger and disappointment over the Israeli government's decision to withdraw from the plan to create an egalitarian prayer space at Jerusalem's Western Wall.
"People are outraged," Nadler told Haaretz in an interview on Tuesday. "This is a direct declaration by the government of Israel that non-Orthodox Jews in Israel and in the United States are irrelevant. It's a total insult to the entire community. The message is basically, 'we don't care about you.' We saw what the minister of health [Yaakov Litzman, of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party] said, that this sends a clear message - well, it certainly does."
Nadler said the government's reversal "is against religious freedom, which is enshrined in Israel's Declaration of Independence and is part of our shared values. This will have a terrible effect." According to Nadler, "the angriest phone calls I've received are from the people who care most about Israel and are most involved in advocacy." In his opinion, a further cause for concern are "those who are distant and cold towards Israel, and will now use this to tell others in their communities - see, I told you so."
The Western Wall issue, Nadler says, has been raised in many conversations by Jewish-American lawmakers and their Israeli counterparts over the years. "This is about how the Israeli government regards the majority of American Jews. It's hard to think of a more harmful thing they could have done." The damage, he warns, is real - and it could intensify worrying trends that are already visible when it comes to support for Israel among young American Jews.
"My position on this is very clear - we should continue to strongly support Israel despite this decision, and we should fight this decision despite our strong support for Israel. But not everyone is going to take this kind of position. There has been a huge reaction to this decision, and I hope the government finds the wisdom to change it."