Western wall and the Temple Mount
Western wall and the Temple MountMati Amar/TPS

In response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to maintain the "status quo" at the Western Wall, the Rabbinical Assembly (RA), the international association of Conservative/Masorti rabbis, issued the following statement:

"The Rabbinical Assembly is deeply disappointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to uphold the promise of egalitarian prayer at the Kotel. Despite the Prime Minister's statement affirming the 'status quo' and addressing issues of modest clothing and music for visitors, it does not specifically address the issue of egalitarian prayer, which is a concern for millions of Jews in Israel and the global diaspora.

"The Prime Minister has asserted that he is in direct control of the government and its policies, yet this proposal was put forward to a committee process at the last minute. That decision would not merit serious consideration if the relationship with diaspora Jewry and a commitment to religious pluralism was a priority for this new government.

"It remains imperative that Israel provide the necessary resources to guarantee the right to peace and security for all worshipers in Judaism’s holiest site. We demand that the government immediately move forward with the promised improvements to the Azarat HaKotel area, including making it possible to approach the Wall directly (which is currently fenced off even after the safety concerns have been addressed). We similarly await the government’s commitment to fulfill the Kotel Compromise, which was negotiated under Prime Minister Netanyahu’s previous government.

"This issue is part of a larger concern about potential threats to the democratic nature of the State of Israel, including religious freedom. This statement regarding the status of protected egalitarian prayer as previously promised aligns with our opposition to recent proposals around judicial reforms, which would endanger Supreme Court rulings that preserve religious freedom and ensure religious pluralism.

"We call on the Prime Minister and his government to demonstrate a commitment to religious pluralism and to uphold the promise of egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall. The State of Israel must be a place where all Jews, regardless of their observance or affiliation, feel welcomed and valued."

On Thursday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the Western Wall bill which is being promoted by Shas chairman Aryeh Deri is not on the government's agenda.

"I heard the headlines this morning about the Western Wall and I would like to reassure and clarify: the status quo at the Western Wall, which is precious to all the people of Israel, will be maintained as it is today. I have also talked with my friends, the leaders of the factions, and it is accepted by all that the law will not be brought up now. Even if it were to be brought up, it would not be brought up with the clauses imposing criminal charges on certain clothing or musical instruments that were written 40 years ago and are not acceptable to anyone". Netanyahu said.

"Therefore, the Wall will remain exactly as it is today", the Prime Minister declared.