JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s Chief Rabbinate said it had not agreed to the expanded egalitarian area of the Western Wall on the same day that some 150 male and female Reform rabbis held a prayer service at the site of the expansion.
On Thursday afternoon, the Chief Rabbinate Council issued a statement following its monthly meeting demanding the government freeze the plans approved last month to expand the non-Orthodox Jewish prayer section of the Wall until after the government officially consults with the Rabbinate. It called the decision to expand the prayer site “illegal,” saying that only the Religious Affairs Ministry has the authority to designate such new religious sites, the haredi Orthodox Kikar HaShabbat news website reported.
The council also said the committee that planned the site – including government representatives, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Women of the Wall, and the Reform and Conservative movements – did not have the authority to make the recommendations, rendering them invalid.
Gilad Kariv, the leader of the Reform movement in Israel, told the Times of Israel that the Rabbinate had been involved in discussions about the site and had given its consent. Kariv said the Rabbinate was acting with “shameful cowardice” in the face of haredi opposition to the plan.
The service that morning at Robinson’s Arch, the egalitarian prayer site at the Wall, was part of the annual conference of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. The Reform movement’s main rabbinic body is holding the gathering this week in Israel.