Sunday, June 25, 2017


The story was told in a simple sentence today in a Haaretz Breaking News: "The government decided on Sunday to suspend a plan to establish an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall." Former Ambassador Michael Oren reacted in The Jerusalem Post:

"Deputy minister and former US ambassador Michael Oren criticizes Netanyahu’s decision to freeze the government-approved plan for pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall as the 'abandonment of Zionism,' and says it unfairly demonizes non-Orthodox Jews.

'As far as I’m concerned, this is the abandonment of Zionism. The Western Wall belongs to all Jews,' Oren says in a statement, saying the move would only serve the 'the narrow interests' of the ultra-Orthodox parties.

'This despicable decision sends a sharp message of division and alienation to Diaspora Jewry,' he adds. 'The State of Israel defines itself as the nation-state of the Jewish people. It must start behaving like it.'"
I'm certain that the tiny cabal that is JFNA's leadership is crafting its own statement strongly influenced by its need to not rupture relations with the Prime Minister that might result in invitations to meet with the Prime Minister during Jewish Agency meetings be canceled. Maybe they are drafting a letter -- for that is their modus operandi isn't it -- that they can leave behind on a chair in the PM's Cabinet meeting room as they slink out. Or, maybe, just maybe, for once they will stand up and demand as Amb. Oren did that if "...the State of Israel defines itself as the nation-state of the Jewish People, it must start behaving like it."

Friends, the agreement to create an egalitarian prayer space at (actually adjacent to) the Kotel has been in place after four years of negotiations, unimplemented, for two years, celebrated by JFNA (and, truly, no one else, given that "all politics is local") based on periodic assurances from the Prime Minister that it was just a matter of "working out the details." Now that agreement stands breached in whole and in part.

Oh, sure, there will be lip service to the effect that Minister Tzachi Hanegbi has been assigned the task of developing a new "plan" -- but just whom at this point would believe that anything will come of this "effort?" But, just as sure, some will actually believe this fiction and counsel silence and patience. 

In a sharply worded editorial scold,, Haaretz wrote,
"Thirty years of demonstrating, protesting and agitating for egalitarian prayers at the Western Wall went down the drain. Years of lobbying, cajoling, persuading, negotiating and agreeing were all for 2017 it's simply inconceivable that medieval Jewish fundamentalists would continue to dictate terms to the government of the modern state of Israel, all turned out to be nothing more than  smoke and mirrors. Bubkes. Nada. Gornisht mit gornisht, nothing with nothing."
If JFNA has any credibility, its leaders will stand for the Jewish values embodied in our work, in the work of our communities. As it happens, many North American Jewish leaders, as well as leaders from around the Diaspora, are in Jerusalem today for the meetings of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors. What better time to assert publicly and privately that today's decision to breach an agreement to which this Prime Minister was committed publicly and privately will not stand. If our leaders do not do so, then they will have abdicated their leadership obligations.



paul jeser said...

I agree with everything that Richard writes...

HOWEVER, I do not think pressure from the diaspora will make any difference.

The change has to come from within. If the non-Orthodox community wants to change decisions made by the Israeli government it needs change the power base in Israel. It needs to strengthen its own institutions, it needs to bolster aliyah.

Israel's democracy, warts and all, is just that, a democracy. All the complaining and hand-wringing by non-voting diaspora Jews, as has been proven time and time again, is not the answer.

Anonymous said...

Your correspondent above confused democratic decisions with theocratic ones; with those that impact World Jewry with those that don't. If we in the Diaspora are silent today as he dictates, our silence plays into the hands of those who preach BDS, those who are pleased with the growing alienation between Diaspora Jewry and Israel.

American Jewry stood up strong and tall in the face of a similar assault in the guise of changes to the "Law of Return" and we prevailed. To be silent now is impermissible even with the void in leadership at JFNA.

Dan Brown said...

The Prime Minister, on many occasions, PRESENTS HIMSELF as the Prime Minister of the Jewish People. That alone gives every Jew - regardless of where they live - the right to speak publicly, and forcefully, on this and every other issue that affects world Jewry.

A note of caution: this Prime Minister won't budge except for his own personal gain. And while I disagree with what Paul says above, I post this last sentence as an Israeli citizen, not as a Diaspora Jew.

Anonymous said...

A couple of points:

1) Shmuel Rosner's article on this issue is a must read:

2) Especially his comment #22

3) Jeser never advocated silence. He said that Diaspora criticism will not work. He recommended some actions that might (and there are others).

4) Brown may be right about what PM Netanyahu believes, however, speaking publicly, no matter how forcefully, will not force a change in this situation.

Dan Brown said...

I agree: speaking publicly will not change the situation. But it will show who has/has no spine!