Herzog Discusses Kosel Plan with Heterodox Groups

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at a Chanukah candle-lighting on Monday. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog met on Wednesday with representatives of Reform and Conservative groups as well as the Women of the Wall to discuss plans for an egalitarian prayer section at the Kosel.

According to the President’s Office, Herzog “heard the opinions and suggestions of the different movements, and reiterated that he strives to calm the tensions in order to prevent senseless hatred” at the holy site.

Representatives from the Orthodox community, which has steadfastly opposed such plans, did not participate in the meeting.

The president “condemned all manifestations of physical and verbal violence,” and said that the Western Wall “is a holy site to which the whole Jewish People look to, in Israel and around the world, and that there is a need for responsibility, restraint and efforts to find ways for all parts of our nation, in Israel and the Diaspora, to move forward peacefully.”

The plan has the backing from, among others Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Labor MK Gilad Kariv, the former head of Israel’s Reform Movement, says that he is “looking forward to implementing the Western Wall plan.”

United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni warned on Monday, “If MK Gilad Kariv intends to arrive at the Kosel on Rosh Chodesh [Teves], we, the UTJ MKs, will be there to stop him with our bodies.

“The holiest place for the Jewish people cannot be desecrated,” said Rabbi Gafni.

Meanwhile, the Rabbinical Center of Europe sent a letter signed by many local Rabbanim and community leaders to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, warning him about the implications of recognition of the Reform movement and of handing over to their movement any legitimacy at the Kosel.

“Please do not allow them to desecrate the sanctity of the holiest place to Jews,” the Rabbanim pleaded to Bennett.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has not publicly endorsed the deal, waiting to see what negotiations on the issue will bring.