In January 2016, the Government of Israel approved a plan that was negotiated over a two-year period by Women of the Wall, the Reform and Conservative movements, the North American Federations, and the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate of the Kotel, that would expand and solidify an egalitarian presence at the Southern Western Wall. This agreement states that this prayer space would be monitored and controlled by representatives of the liberal streams without interference by the Chief Rabbinate or any other Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox authority.
Since the agreement was signed by all parties, the government has delayed its implementation due to new pressure from the ultra-Orthodox parties that are seeking changes to the original agreement in a number of ways that would effectively give control of the space back to the Chief Rabbinate of the Wall, make it invisible from the Plaza and create separate entrances for the Orthodox and non-Orthodox worshippers. Coupled with this, in the last few months, there has been a deliberate upsurge of incitement against non-Orthodox religious prayer groups by the ultra-Orthodox Rabbinate, chief municipal rabbis and ultra-Orthodox community.
Not moving forward on this plan undermines and contradicts PM Netanyahu’s statements that “every Jew should feel at home in Israel.”
Egalitarian prayer services at the Kotel are not the only way to demonstrate our hope for the agreement to be implemented. This is part of a larger effort to encourage religious pluralism in Israel. We hold that the struggle is not in Jerusalem alone, but throughout the country. The reason for this public demonstration is to maintain the pressure that our larger goal is state recognition, equality, and religious tolerance for all (a principle in Israel’s Declaration of Independence), and to fully reach Israel’s potential as a Jewish and Democratic State.
As part of our worldwide movement, ARZENU, ARZA Australia is taking a proactive stance on this matter. We are seeking a meeting with the Ambassador but we also need you, and members of our congregations, to talk to all representatives of Israel, about the importance of religious pluralism becoming a real and lasting part of Israeli society.
Our goal is to have the Israeli government abide by its agreement regarding the Kotel. We are acting in support of our Movement in Israel (IMPJ) and the work of the Israel Religious Action Center. Please support ARZA in its work of voicing our concern because it really does have an impact. The Israeli government sees and hears the strength and numbers of our collective voice, both as a group and in giving weight and strength to the work of our Movement leaders who represent us.
At the same time our partners in Israel feel the strength of our standing behind them and with them in their increasingly successful work to bring pluralistic and egalitarian Judaism to Israel.
We also take the opportunity to happily announce that Sandy Hollis has taken on the role of part-time Administrator of ARZA Australia. Sandy brings a boundless amount of knowledge and experience, particularly in the area of Jewish education and history. Coupled with her passion for Israel and her commitment to make it the inclusive and democratic society we all long for, Sandy is going to make an outstanding contribution to our work. To talk to her about receiving educational materials or arranging for her, or me, to come to your community to talk about ARZA, please contact her on ARZAadmin@arza.org.au or on 0402 175 086.