Ex-Prime Minister's ruling on Kotel authority

In discussion over authority transfer for new Reform prayer space, Chief Rabbi brings Levy Eshkol's words from after the Six Day War.

Shlomo Piotrokovsky ,

The Kotel (file)
The Kotel (file)
Hezki Ezra

The Chief Rabbinate Council is to hold a discussion on Thursday, in which it will discuss the transfer of authority in the recent government decision to create another Reform prayer space at the Western Wall (Kotel).

That prayer space, which comes in addition to another egalitarian non-Orthodox space built in 2013, is to be removed from under the authority of the Kotel Chief Rabbi, and transferred to the authority of a council that will include senior Reform and Conservative Jews.

At the meeting on Thursday, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau plans to present rare documentation of a meeting held by then Prime Minister Levy Eshkol right after the 1967 Six Day War when the Kotel was liberated, in which he spoke before the Chief Rabbis and the leaders of other religions in Israel.

In his speech, Eshkol explained the reasons for the IDF's military action against the occupying Jordanian army, and noted that despite his public announcement on the radio that Israel will not take action against a country that does not act against it, the Jordanian kingdom decided to declare war against Israel and actively strike the Jewish state.

Eshkol went on to say that in Jerusalem, which was divided under Jordanian rule, the Jordanians bombed yeshivot, synagogues, schools and private homes in a manner that left Israel with no option but to strike back.

The then Prime Minister also declared before the heads of the various religions that Israel will not allow the holy sites of all religions to be harmed.

He emphasized that each religion would be given control over its own holy sites, clearly indicating that the Chief Rabbinate would be given authority over the Kotel - in a precedent that would seem to rule out the idea of transferring that authority to a new committee.

The Kotel is a remaining wall from the Second Temple, which stood on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. Despite also being liberated in the Six Day War, the Temple Mount has been left under the de facto control of the Jordanian Waqf, which has banned Jewish prayer.

Regarding the new Reform prayer space, the decision has raised the anger of Palestinians who reiterated ahistoric claims to the site. Earlier this month Dr. Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University's archaeology institute warned Arutz Sheva that the new prayer space ramp will cover the last remaining site testifying to the destruction of the Second Temple.

The move has led opponents to bring other historical documentation, including an historic letter from the early 1970s by the leading rabbis of the generation forbidding a division of the Kotel.

Former Interior Minister Eli Yishai, head of the Yachad - Ha'am Itanu party, condemned the haredi and religious parties in the coalition government, saying they should have brought down the coalition over the new Reform prayer space.

Documentation of the meeting