Government to Revive Pluralistic Kosel Plan

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai (Labor). (Miriam Alster/FLASH90/File)

The Bennett-Lapid government will soon be reviving the plan for a permanent pluralistic prayer section at the Kosel which had been shelved by the Netanyahu government for the past four years, The Times of Israel reported on Tuesday.

Nachman Shai (Labor), the minister for Diaspora Affairs, said: “It’s on the agenda. It’s only a matter of timing.”

Shai said that he is urging Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to put it to a cabinet vote before he goes to the U.S. to meet with President Joe Biden in Washington and with Jewish leaders in New York. That meeting, tentatively set for August, looked like it was going to be postponed, according to a Times of Israel report on Tuesday.

Shai said the Kosel plan would improve ties with the Reform and Conservative groups in the U.S. Though revival of the plan will also revive passionate opposition from the chareidi parties, who have fought the plan from its inception as a form of official recognition of the heretical groups, it will not matter to the coalition.

He said that Bennett is on the record in favor of it, and should have a ministerial majority with the support of Labor party leader Merav Michaeli, Avigdor Liberman, and Gideon Sa’ar.

Shai said that his backing for the plan is part of keeping faith with the non-Orthodox groups. On his first day in the job, he said, “I told them that this is going to be different now, and we are going to be pluralistic… No one [religious stream] will be more important… In this spirit, [there is] no reason whatsoever that Conservative and Reform [Jews] will not be able to pray near the Western Wall like the Orthodox. No reason whatsoever. I can hardly understand why it hasn’t been done so far.”

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