There is no progress in the equitable space on the Western Wall

After a meeting with cabinet chief Shlomo Shalom, leaders of Israel’s reform and conservative movement said they were disappointed with the almost complete lack of progress following the prime minister’s promise to improve the West Wall’s egalitarian prayer space.

“In a way, not only was there no step forward, we even went backwards. This is very frustrating, “said Izhar Hess, a former leader of the Masurti movement and current vice-president of the World Zionist Organization (WSO).

Leaders of Israel’s reformist and conservative movement and Women of the Wall, an organization campaigning for greater gender equality in the Western Wall, attended the meeting.

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“The government has not been able to deliver what we had hoped for, even with the difficulties of the alliance. It’s a waste of time, very frustrating, “said Hess The Times of Israel After the meeting.

“We are very disappointed that nothing has been done,” said Anna Kislansky, director of Israel’s Jewish Reform and Progressive Movement.

Kislansky and Hess’s comments form a 180-degree turn from comments made after a similar meeting at the prime minister’s office earlier this year, which was described as the most positive and warm of all.

At the meeting, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett explained to reformist and conservative leaders – from Israel and the United States – that the West Bank agreement would obviously be frozen in the short term. Bennett, however, agreed to take a number of concrete steps At least Improve the egalitarian prayer space on the south side of the wall, known as the Robinsons Arch.

Bennett decided to fund development – not usually funded by the government, unlike the main Western Wall Plaza – and to strengthen security to prevent ultra-Orthodox militants from attacking sites during egalitarian prayer services as in the past.

Participants in Monday’s meeting with Shlomo said nothing had happened on both issues. According to Kislansky, these promises have been ignored.

“They did nothing but place two umbrellas,” he said.

“They are not even able to keep the ultra-Orthodox extremists away from our place and prevent us from praying in the southern part of the western wall. They come in, see that we are praying, set up mehitjots without asking us and have separate prayer services, ”Kislansky explained, using the Hebrew word to distinguish men from men in the Orthodox synagogue.

Hess acknowledged that government instability and the problems he was currently facing were hindering the implementation of the agreement, which would provide funding for the non-Orthodox representation of Judaism on the Western Wall Management Board and for Robinson’s Arch Prayer.

“It simply came to our notice then. But he can do other important things, “he added. For example, the government could repair the verandas by creating an egalitarian prayer space and allow the re-opening of the side of the Western Wall.

Prayers at the Western Wall Pluralist Prayer Pavilion, July 17, 2014. (Gerson Ellison / Flash 90)

“For three years, we have not been able to touch the Western Wall [depuis l’espace de prière égalitaire]. There is no access to the west wall from this place because the porch is blocked. There is talk of an ‘egalitarian Western Wall’, but no wall! “She is OK.

Hess added that despite the “frustration and disappointment”, he did not hold a grudge against the chief of staff.

“They give us explanations and show that they have done something specific. They are good people. Everyone was good-natured, polite, “he concluded.

Kislansky spoke of the return of visitors and tourists to Israel – including non-Orthodox Jews – in a country that has reopened its borders after a two-year embargo due to the epidemic.

“Tourism and bar and bat mitzvah events [à l’espace de prière égalitaire] It has started again, ”he said.

Although he no longer formally leads Israel’s conservative movement, Hess is deeply involved and warns that “dragging the government’s feet” on the West Wall will have a negative impact on Israel’s relations with expatriates.

“It simply came to our notice then. If such a government does not know how to resolve the rift between Israel and the expatriates, what government will? It’s a difficult conclusion, and that’s why our frustration is so strong, “Hess concluded.

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on the meeting.

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