Israel says it will expand space for non-Orthodox prayer at Western Wall despite freezing agreement

Anat Hoffman being arrested after saying the Shema prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Oct. 16, 2012. (Women of the Wall)

Anat Hoffman being arrested after saying the Shema prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Oct. 16, 2012. (Women of the Wall)

JERUSALEM (JTA) – The government of Israel told the nation’s Supreme Court that it plans to expand and upgrade a space for non-Orthodox prayer at the southern section of the Western Wall near Robinson’s Arch.

The government made the declaration in documents submitted to the court in response to a petition filed by the non-Orthodox Jewish movements and the Women of the Wall group that calls on the state to create the permanent space for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall.  [Read more…]

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Netanyahu counsels ‘patience and perseverance’ in Western Wall controversy

(JTA) – Speaking at a July 4 celebration, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was committed to making “every Jew feel at home” at the Western Wall.

“I remain committed to making every Jew at home in Israel, including at the Kotel,” Netanyahu said Monday at July 4 celebrations at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, using the Hebrew term for one of the holiest sites in Judaism. “All we need is patience and perseverance.” [Read more…]

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We did not seek to blame liberal Jews

Benjamin Netanyahu, third from right, arriving at the weekly cabinet meeting at the prime minister office’s in Jerusalem, June 25, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)
Benjamin Netanyahu, third from right, arriving at the weekly cabinet meeting at the prime minister office’s in Jerusalem, June 25, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, third from right, arriving at the weekly cabinet meeting at the prime minister office’s in Jerusalem, June 25, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

(JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has flatly denied a report that it instructed diplomats to blame non-Orthodox Jews for the controversy over the Western Wall.

Israeli diplomats in North America were told to blame the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements for the ongoing crisis in relations between Israel’s government and U.S. Jewry, according to a report in Israeli daily Maariv. According to Maariv, the directive happened in a conference call this week between the diplomats and Jonathan Shechter, a senior aide to Netanyahu. [Read more…]

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Israeli diplomats in North America reportedly reject order to blame liberal Jews for Western Wall crisis

The Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on a rainy day, Oct. 25, 2015. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

The Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on a rainy day, Oct. 25, 2015. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

(JTA) – Israeli diplomats in North America rejected a talking point handed down to them from Jerusalem, which they told an Israeli daily blames liberal Jews for the Western Wall controversy.

The top diplomats refused to repeat the narrative that Jonathan Shechter, a top adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, handed down to them earlier this week in telephone conversations about the crisis in relations between the government and leaders of the Reform and other liberal Jewish denominations in the United States, Maariv on Friday reported. [Read more…]

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AIPAC leaders warn Netanyahu of ‘crisis of faith’ among U.S. Jews with freeze on Western Wall agreement

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Three American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) leaders reportedly told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “we have lost the incentive to act for Israel” and of a “crisis of faith” among American Jews in the aftermath of the freezing of the Western Wall agreement.

Outgoing president Lillian Pinkus, her successor, Mort Fridman, and managing director Richard Fishman also said at the emergency meeting Thursday that activists and donors have threatened to stop working with the AIPAC over the controversy, Israel’s Channel 2 reported Thursday evening.

The leaders spent about a day in Israel and left Thursday night after their meeting with Netanyahu, The Times of Israel reported.

AIPAC has not commented on the meeting.

On Wednesday, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which represents more than 50 national U.S. Jewish groups, in a letter to Netanyahu said that a lack of unity between Diaspora Jews and Israel over the Western Wall agreement “could lead to an erosion of support.”

On Sunday, the Israeli government voted to suspend most of the compromise passed in January 2016 by the Cabinet dealing with the status of the non-Orthodox section of the Western Wall.  The compromise would have expanded the non-Orthodox prayer section south of the main Western Wall plaza, created a shared entrance to all prayer areas and appointed an interdenominational council to oversee the non-Orthodox section.

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