WEEKLY UPDATE- 30.6.17
Dear parents, shnattim, bogrim, bogrot, communities and friends shalom rav,
We hope you are well,
It is hard for me to find the right words this week: On the one hand- things are very quiet and peaceful. Our offices have no barefoot shnattim running around; our Northerners are home safely; our Southerners are having an interesting and unique week together, and they really enjoyed some cool activities-
On the other hand- things are happening in regards to the Kotel and the Conversion Bill, and it should be anything but quiet and peaceful-
So I will leave you with the below corners, where you can hopefully see and feel what has been happening here since last Thursday.
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom!
"They're back!! So so so excited for them! Wishing for them to continue their journey & we'll see you soon! X — feeling proud with Daniel Smith, Thomas Smith and Jess Mindel."
Northerners, it is weird without you here. At least we know you are in good hands!
Last weekly update for Etgar Nof, by Asha Sumroy
What's happening at the Western Wall
The Wetern Wall agreement has been on the news in the last few days. Here is a short review from different sources about it.
Women of the Wall's Lesley Sachs explains why Netanyahu's government's decision to backtrack on a hard fought agreement to create an egalitarian prayer space is a "big slap in the face"- Here
Israel Expected to Suspend Plan to Build Mixed-prayer Space at Western Wall
Judy Maltz, June 19, 2017, Ha'aretz
Ultra-Orthodox parties have told Netanyahu that they will continue to allow other sects to hold mixed prayer services under Robinson's Arch.
The Israeli government is expected to notify the Supreme Court on Sunday of its official decision to suspend implementation of the plan to create a special plaza for mixed-prayer services at the Western Wall.
The plan, approved almost a year-and-a-half ago, has never been executed because of opposition from the ultra-Orthodox members of the ruling coalition. In September, the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel, along with Women of the Wall – a multidenominational prayer group – petitioned the Supreme Court to force the government to fulfill its commitment, or alternatively, re-divide the existing gender-segregated prayer plazas to make room for them.
The state failed to meet past deadlines issued by the Supreme Court to respond to the petition, requesting numerous extensions, but has let it be known, through various channels, that it plans to meet the latest deadline, which falls on Sunday.
“It appears that Netanyahu has officially decided not to decide,” said a source knowledgeable about deliberations taking place in the prime minister’s office.
In recent weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under intense pressure from this ultra-Orthodox coalition partners to cancel the plan altogether. The ultra-Orthodox object to mixed prayer services and do not consider the Reform and Conservative movements legitimate forms of Judaism.
In exchange, they have let the prime minister know that they would be willing to allow non-Orthodox Jews to continue to hold mixed prayer services near the area known as Robinson’s Arch, at the southern expanse of the Western Wall, as they have been doing since 2000. The Reform and Conservative movements have long maintained that they do not consider Robinson’s Arch an acceptable solution since it lacks the visibility and the accessibility of the main prayer plazas.
Several years ago, the government constructed a temporary ramp near Robinson’s Arch for the benefit of non-Orthodox worshippers, but in recent months, several yeshivas affiliated with the settler movement have tried to take it over, going so far as to set up a barrier separating men and women when they come to pray there.
At its weekly meeting on Sunday, the cabinet may also vote on suspending the Western Wall plan until some future compromise is reached acceptable to all sides concerned. Netanyahu is reluctant to scrap the plan altogether, as his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners have demanded, aware of the outcry this would spark among Diaspora Jews.
Meanwhile, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee convened on Monday to address a special request from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate that it be allowed to represent itself independently in the Supreme Court case concerning the Western Wall deal. The Chief Rabbinate’s position is that it is the only institution in the country authorized to rule on the status of Jewish holy sites. The committee did not make any decision.
One Wall One People- Updates From Israel
From IMPJ's newsletter
Yesterday (Sunday), as we rejoiced in welcoming the new month of Tamuz, our happiness was disrupted by news of two major setbacks for our movement and for freedom of religion in Israel.
On Sunday morning, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government gave into extortion from the ultra-Orthodox parties, suspending the agreement to build an Egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall, which would grant equal access and rights for Jews of all denominations. The "Kotel Agreement" passed nearly 18 months ago after a four-year negotiation process between the Israeli government, the IMPJ and our other liberal partners. Later in the day we faced further disappointment. The National Conversion Bill – ruling that all conversion in Israel must be under the Chief Rabbinate’s authority – passed the government legislation committee, bringing it one step closer to fruition.
“The decision by the government is a reprehensible and embarrassing surrender to the pressures of the Haredi political parties which severely damages the basic core interests of the state of Israel and the Jewish people. The Prime Minister and his coalition partners actively gave their blessing to this anti-Zionist step that will hurt the relations between Israel and the Diaspora, and weaken the connection of millions of Jews to Jerusalem” Rabbi Gilad Kariv, IMPJ President and CEO, said yesterday. (Read his full statement here)
These developments have been detrimental, not only to the IMPJ and liberal Judaism in Israel, but to millions of Jews worldwide. With these decisions Netanyahu and his government have firmly stated that their loyalties lie not with Am Yisrael, but with a small ultra-Orthodox faction. The severity of these decisions has not gone unnoticed. Our Reform and Progressive friends and partners overseas have all come out against the decision. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, has canceled his meeting with Prime Minster Netanyahu stating, "The decision cannot be seen as anything other than a betrayal, and I see no point to a meeting at this time. We will make our arguments in the Supreme Court." The World Union for Progressive Judaism and ARZENU asserted, "The sacred civil right ‘to live as free people in our land’ has been sold to maintain a weak political coalition. The unity of the Jewish people, a central pillar of Zionism, has been seriously harmed by yesterday's decisions."
The outrage does not stop at Reform and Progressive Jews. The Jewish Agency for Israel, whose Board of Governors is made up of the Jewish Federations of North America, the World Zionist Organization, and Keren Hayesod, have come out strongly against the decisions. They cancelled their meeting with the Prime Minster, presented a resolution calling for the reinstatement of the “Kotel Agreement” and the rescindment of the Conversion Bill, and changed the remainder of the itinerary for their Board of Governors in order to lobby at the Knesset tomorrow.
In the coming days we will update you on the actions we plan to take and we are looking forward to working with you, our partners, in responding to this challenge. We will continue to stand against Sinat Chinam (baseless hatred) and for Ahavat Yisrael (love for one’s fellow Jews) and we will not stop until the Kotel becomes a place for ALL Jewish people.
Thank you for your unwavering support.
The World Union Responds: Netanyahu Renegs on Kotel and Conversion Bills
We are profoundly disappointed in the decision of the Government of Israel to deny the Jewishness of Israeli citizens not converted under the authority of the chief rabbinate, and its refusal to honor its commitment to uphold the right of Jews to pray at the Kotel as they do in their own synagogues.
These decisions deliver a divisive and insulting blow to the millions of Jews who passionately believe in Jewish pluralism. By implementing its agreement, relations between Diaspora Jews and the State of Israel would have improved. Sadly, the Government violated the trust between us by changing the rules of conversion.
We are currently in Jerusalem attending the board meeting of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) as Progressive Judaism's international representatives. This morning, the board passed a resolution calling on Knesset members to reverse these decisions of the Cabinet. In protest, JAFI also cancelled our scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
The sacred civil right "to live as free people in our land" has been sold to maintain a weak political coalition. The unity of the Jewish people, a central pillar of Zionism, has been seriously harmed by yesterday's decisions.
With our movement partners in Israel, we must commit ourselves anew to defend religious rights in Israel. We urge you to contact your local Israel representatives, ambassadors or counsel general to express your outrage.
We will not allow others to tell us how to live as Jews.
Rabbi Daniel Freelander, President, WUPJ
Carole Sterling, Chair, WUPJ
Rabbi Lawrence Englander, Chairman, ARZENU
A brief history of Jewish worship at Judaism’s holiest place of prayer, where, until it came under Israeli jurisdiction, a mixing of genders was the norm
BY AMANDA BORSCHEL-DAN June 29, 2017
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom,
Lior and the Netzer staff
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