The Israeli Government has passed an historic and unprecedented resolution legalizing and officially recognizing the status of egalitarian prayer at the Kotel – Western Wall.
Following three years of intense negotiations, an egalitarian and pluralistic prayer section will be constructed alongside the existing separated sections, the entrance to which will be from the central entry point and will be managed by the Reform and Conservative Movements in Israel and Women of the Wall, together with the Israeli Government.
What this means:
FOR THE FIRST TIME – Complete and clear Israeli legal recognition of egalitarian prayer in the spirit of Reform and Conservative Judaism as part of the custom of Jewish holy sites.
FOR THE FIRST TIME – A joint government office with legally binding authority, government funding and official representation from the Reform and Conservative Movements.
FOR THE FIRST TIME – Any visitor to the Kotel and any family from Israel or from abroad celebrating a Bar or Bat Mitzvah will be able to choose between a separated prayer service with a Mechitza (barrier) between women and men and an egalitarian and mixed prayer service.
FOR THE FIRST TIME – Legally binding recognition of the official status of the upper plaza and its usage for ceremonies and national and public events with no separation between men and women and without the coercion of religious norms which are unaccepted by the majority of Israelis (such as the prevention of women from singing).
FOR THE FIRST TIME – The Reform and Conservative Movements, Women of the Wall, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) have teamed up for a joint and coordinated agreement with the Israeli government regarding matters of religion and state in Israel.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, IMPJ executive director, stated that “this Government resolution gives unprecedented recognition to Reform and Conservative Judaism in Israel, puts an end to the monopoly at the Kotel and clearly states that at the holiest site to the Jewish people, and anywhere else, there is more than one way to pray and connect to Jewish tradition.”
Joining him in praise for the resolution are President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), Rabbi Rick Jacobs, who stated: “This effort is the result of the extraordinary commitment shown by those in Israel who wouldn’t agree to the second-class status imposed by the ultra-orthodox religious establishment and by all of us outside of Israel whose unconditional love for our Jewish State compels us to tirelessly advocate for a more equal, pluralistic and Jewishly vibrant Israel,” and Anat Hoffman, chair of Women of the Wall and head of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), who announced that “this is a groundbreaking agreement. After years and years of insisting that we have an equal place for prayer, after enduring campaigns of abuse against us, and being encouraged by a wave of Jewish support from across the globe, we have accomplished this extraordinary first step. We will be able to stand as part of living history, read the Torah and pray in the spirit of pluralism and egalitarianism that we believe is critical to a vibrant Judaism. Now, we look forward to the steps that will need to be taken to implement this plan.”
The IMPJ joins all of its partners in this historical effort – the Conservative Movement in Israel and North America, Women of the Wall, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) – in celebrating this unprecedented victory and thanks them for their on-going partnership in this and many other joint endeavours.