We work for the acceptance and respect of the Reform Movement as a legitimate stream of Judaism by the Israeli Government. We will no longer tolerate institutionalized discrimination against our way of being Jewish: addressing issues of civil marriage, acceptance of all conversions and gender equality throughout Israeli society, including at Judaism’s most holy sight the Kotel (Western Wall), is imperative.
An important symbol for this struggle has been the Kotel (the Western Wall) – Judaism’s most holy sight, which the Israeli government has permitted the Chief Rabbinate to turn into an orthodox synagogue. People of all faiths are welcome to approach and pray at the Kotel but in sections that are separated by gender. Not only are the sections not equal size, but there is
a prohibition on mixed-gender prayer services on the large plaza behind the wall, Torah scrolls are not allowed to be carried in from off-site, and women and mixed groups are not allowed use of Torah scrolls on-site.
Following lengthy legal battles led by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), authorities have designated a significantly smaller temporary platform for non-Orthodox Jewish prayers in an area adjacent to the Western Wall and south of the Kotel plaza, in the active archaeological site of Robinson’s Arch. The egalitarian prayer space, which is used by the Conservative and Reform movements for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and other religious services, is not visible or easily accessible from the main Western Wall plaza.
We do not accept that Reform and Conservative Jews can be treated as second-class Jews.
We do not accept that Reform and Conservative Jews can be treated as second-class Jews. Using our political power in the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), we pushed for the then chair of JAFI, Natan Sharansky, to be tasked with finding a solution to the dispute. He begun work with a committee in 2012 proposing the so-called Kotel compromise, which would leave the existing prayer areas untouched but create a third, egalitarian prayer space at the Wall that is identical in size and standing to the plaza currently controlled by the orthodox. This proposal was then endorsed with a resolution at the last Congress of the World ZIonist Organization (WZO) in October 2015, where we managed to secure a significant majority in favour of the proposal. It was only after this resolution that the Israeli cabinet approved a plan (which became known as the Kotel compromise) to designate a new space at the Kotel for egalitarian prayer – a huge leap forward in a battled that had lasted for over 25 years.
Since the decision, there has been an uproar from ultra-Orthodox government officials and anti-Reform posters have been plastered all over the city of Jerusalem. On June 25, 2017 the government voted to “freeze” the Kotel agreement, in essence cancelling an agreement. This was a huge set back but we do not give up. We continue to protest the government’s decision to freeze the agreement, using our voice in JAFI and the WZO as well as holding protest marches carrying Torah scrolls into the Kotel area. The upcoming general elections in Israel also provide us with the great opportunity to ask politicians to pledge their support for finding a solution. Most promisingly, General Benny Gantz, who is seen as a contender for being the next prime minister, has signalled his support.
Check out our blog to read about the latest developments.