JERUSALEM (JTA) – The Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors cancelled a scheduled dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after an Israeli government decision to freeze a plan to create an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall.
Also on Monday, the heads of the Reform movement in North America and Israel said they would cancel a meeting scheduled for Thursday with Netanyahu in the wake of the Western Wall decision. The meeting had been arranged several weeks ago.
The Jewish Agency announced the cancellation on Monday of the dinner that was scheduled to take place the same day. The statement also said that the group would change its entire agenda for the remaining two days of its meetings in Jerusalem “in order to address the ramifications of these decisions.”
A ceremony to kick off the Board of Governors meeting scheduled for Monday at the Knesset also was cancelled.
The Jewish Agency also announced on Monday that it had unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the Israeli government to reverse its decision to suspend the deal and a separate decision to advance a bill that would only recognize conversions completed under the auspices of the haredi Orthodox-dominated Chief Rabbinate.
The resolution said that the proposed conversion bill “has the devastating potential to permanently exclude hundreds of thousands of Israelis from being a part of the Jewish people.” It also said the board “deplores” the decision to freeze the Western Wall agreement that would “establish the Kotel as a unifying symbol for Jews around the world, as stated: ‘One Wall for One People’.”
“The Government of Israel’s decisions have a deep potential to divide the Jewish people and to undermine the Zionist vision and dream of Herzl, Ben-Gurion, and Jabotinsky to establish Israel as a national home for the entire Jewish people,” the resolution also said.
The newly installed chair of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, Michael Siegal, on Monday told Haaretz that the Jewish Agency would re-evaluate its relationship with the Israeli government.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, explained in a statement that his movement had been “deeply encouraged” 18 months ago, when Netanyahu and his cabinet, over the objection of haredi Orthodox parties, had passed an agreement that was negotiated by the Reform and Conservative movements, Women of the Wall, the Jewish Agency and the Israeli government.
Netanyahu rescinded the agreement without discussion with North American leaders, said Jacobs.
“The decision cannot be seen as anything other than a betrayal, and I see no point to a meeting at this time,” said Jacobs. “After yesterday’s shameful decisions, we feel that at this moment, after more than four years of negotiations, it is not clear that the current Israeli government honours its agreements.”
The agreement would double to nearly 10,000 square feet – half the size of the Orthodox main section just to its north – a section where men and women could pray together on the western side of the Temple Mount. A committee of non-Orthodox leaders and government officials would manage the non-Orthodox section, and a single entrance would lead to both sections.