Rabbis: Western Wall controversy is not about rights at all

Rabbis reject senators' 'inappropriate intervention' in Israeli religious affairs.

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Priestly blessing at Kotel (Western Wall)
Priestly blessing at Kotel (Western Wall)
Hadas Parush/Flash 90

The Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), a public policy center representing the voice of hundreds of American rabbis, on Tuesday rebuked seven Jewish US senators for their "inappropriate intervention in the religious affairs of another sovereign nation."

The Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), the largest rabbinic public policy organization in America, articulates and advocates for public policy positions based upon traditional Jewish thought.

The rebuke comes in response to a letter sent by the senators to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, calling upon him to change Israeli government policy decisions concerning religious facilities at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem.

In June, the government froze a plan which included moving the entrance to the mixed gender prayer section to the other sections' entrances and allowing representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements to be on the Kotel Committee.

"Jews affiliated with the American liberal movements experience Judaism very differently from Israelis, and indeed from most of the rest of the world," commented Rabbi Yaakov Menken, Director of the CJV. "It is wrong for these senators to exploit their position as US legislators to publicly suggest changes to Israeli policy, especially in religious affairs with which they are unfamiliar."

"The last time PM Netanyahu spoke before the US Congress," added Rabbi Pesach Lerner, a CJV Senior Rabbinic Fellow, "six of these seven rejected his urgent pleas for Israel's security in order to support the Obama Iran deal. Now they presume to meddle in Israel's internal affairs."

"Is there no area of Israeli policy which they will not entrust to Israelis?"

The rabbis expressed particular offense at the senators' claim that the American movements are "denied equal rights in Israel."

Israel is the one Middle Eastern country committed to providing free religious practice to adherents of all religions, and indeed facilities already exist for alternative prayer at the Western Wall as desired by American liberal leaders.

"These senators claim to back Israel, yet support a slanderous claim in an area where Israel is light years ahead of its neighbors," Menken said. "As the Prime Minister noted yesterday, what the American liberal movements demand is not about rights at all. They demand formal recognition as the same Judaism observed by Jews around the world for millennia."

"This is ahistorical, and it is no coincidence that these movements are failing to sustain themselves. By no means should US senators be party to unreasonable demands with religious implications that would threaten the future of the Jewish people."