Diaspora Minister Reveals: After the Budget, We Will Act to Approve the Reform Kosel

Shacharis at the Kosel. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

A group of heads of the Reform and Conservative organizations gathered Monday to establish a Freedom of Religion lobby in the Knesset, with the needs of the Reform vis-a-vis the new government, who supports their approach, at the center of the discussion.

The conference was initiated by the Reform representative in the Knesset, MK Gilad Kariv, MK Michal Rosen (Meretz), who said she was a secular reformist, and MK Moshe Tor-Paz (Yesh Atid), who said he was Orthodox but as a supporter of the Reform group.

During the meeting, Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai revealed the timetable for re-approving the Reform outline of the Kosel after it was canceled at the request of the chareidi parties during the previous government.

Shai told the participants, “The night before my inauguration to the government, I went to the Kosel, to both sides, both to the brightly lit side and to the dark little one. The two places have similar importance.” He said that “the first phone calls in his office were to the representatives of Reform, Conservative and Orthodox.”

“From this moment on, the Israeli government is acting equally for all streams,” the minister declared.

The minister referred to approval of the budget of NIS 40 million for the Reform organizations. The minister explained the essence of the budget: “It puts an end to the discrimination of the Reform and Conservative groups. We have received the allowance and we intend to utilize it as soon as possible.

“We are also promoting the issue of the Kosel, it is more important to our friends abroad, [the current situation] does not satisfy them,” he revealed.

Shai noted that “after the budget is approved, he will also approach this issue. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and even Religious Affairs Minister [Matan Kahana] and Elkin [Minister Ze’ev Elkin] are with us in this matter,” he revealed.

MK Kariv said: “The feeling in the Knesset these days is that there is a significant window of opportunity here [for the Reform groups]. We need to take advantage of it to empower our work.”