Help the Reform Movement Demand Equality at the Western Wall

Posted on November 2, 2016 by Beth Lavranchuk

Last winter, the Israeli government approved an egalitarian space for prayer at the Western Wall. The long-awaited plan is to create a new area by the Western Wall where the Conservative and Reform movements will be permitted to hold egalitarian prayer services.

Under the agreement, this egalitarian prayer section will be located at the southern expanse of the Western Wall at the site where a temporary platform already exists. The agreement requires that the existing gender-segregated prayer areas and the new egalitarian section will be accessed by a common entrance, but both sections will have equal visibility.

Women of the Wall will move its monthly service to the new section as soon as it is functioning. In addition, the current custodian of the Western Wall will no longer control the area known as the “upper plaza” situated outside the official prayer areas. As a result, it is intended to be possible to hold official national ceremonies in this area where men and women can remain together. This is significant for national functions.

The agreement stipulates, that in the existing sections that remain under Orthodox control, prayer regulations will continue to be governed by the Orthodox. The Reform and Conservative movements, as well as Women of the Wall, welcomed the agreement acknowledging that is a ground-breaking decision. The agreement permits growing recognition of the legitimacy of liberal Judaism in Israel. The importance of this moment cannot be underestimated.

The Agreement has not been implemented, and only a few weeks ago, at the request of the Israeli Supreme Court, the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism filed a petition with the Court. The Israel Movement is concerned that while the petition to the court is pending, the government could take action to withdraw the resolution authorizing the agreement. The Movement is asking North American Jews to speak up in support.

In a few days, the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem will ordain a new group  of Israeli Reform Rabbis, demonstrating the great strides our movement has made in furthering the accessibility of liberal Judaism in Israel. By showing your support you can play your part in this essential mission.

Visit the URJ website to learn more about how you can get involved.

Beth Lavranchuk

Israel Matters Committee, Chair