Federations, Jewish Agency Launch Campaign to Reverse Kosel Decision

Federations, Jewish Agency, Launch, Campaign, Reverse, Kosel, Decision
(Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The backlash over the decision to cancel the Kosel egalitarian prayer plan continued on Tuesday, as Reform and secular Jewish leaders began to formulate strategy to force the government to reverse itself.

After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) head Jerry Silverman said that his and other groups will now fight to have the plan that was rejected by the Cabinet reinstated.

The meeting with the prime minister “was truly a meeting of listening. The prime minister was very interested in hearing and listening… He was incredibly respectful and open to hearing everyone’s response at the table — with no filters,” said Silverman.

Silverman said the federations will launch a joint campaign with the Jewish Agency to bring their version of the Kosel issue and that of the move to invest the Chief Rabbinate with sole authority over conversions to the public.

The Jewish Agency bought large advertisements in major Israeli newspapers saying that the government’s decisions “endangers the unity of the Jewish people.”

In an interview with Israel Radio, Agency chairman Natan Sharansky confirmed what Orthodox opponents of the plan have been saying, that it is not just a question of access to the Kosel, but of the Reform gaining a foothold in Israel.

“It all exploded because the state of Israel did not recognize the Reform,” Sharansky said, warning that it is a “dangerous” policy.

Ministers from the Jewish Home party met on Tuesday with the Americans to discuss the crisis. At a luncheon, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan sat facing Sharansky and Reform and federation officials.

Although Jewish Home voted with PM Netanyahu on the Kosel plan, Shaked criticized him for the way it was handled.

“We backed the prime minister on the [Kosel] framework, and thought it was the right thing to do,” Shaked said on Army Radio.

But she noted that ministers were surprised when the vote was announced.

“It wasn’t okay, even if it’s his right as prime minister, that [the vote to freeze the agreement] wasn’t put on the [cabinet meeting’s] agenda. The right thing to do would be to put it on the agenda so ministers can prepare.”

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