David Amsalem
David Amsalem Eliran Aharon

Internal Affairs Committee chair David Amsalem (Likud) castigated planned changes to the Kotel Plaza during an interview with Arutz Sheva on Thursday, arguing that the demand for a mixed-gender prayer space at the holy site was simply a political tool to gain recognition for the Reform movement.

On Wednesday, Yisrael Pat, legal adviser to the Ministry of Religion, issued a directive to Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, informing him that he had no authority to bar the establishment of a mixed prayer section.

Amsalem told Arutz Sheva that there was no apparent reason to change the status quo at the Kotel, and that demands to do so were the result of cynical political calculations.

“Until now everyone who has wanted to has been able to come and pray at the Kotel, including people from the Reform movement. There is a men’s section and a section for women; no one asks if you’re Reform, Jewish, or non-Jewish. Whoever wants to come to the Kotel knows that there are certain rules.”

“You cannot use the Kotel for the struggle to gain [state] recognition of the Reform movement. This is not the place [for that], so any Reform Jews who come to the Kotel can go to the men’s or women’s section, following the rules that have always been there.”

Amsalem also rejected what he described as an effort to use the apparatus of government to alter or ‘reform’ religion.

“The way I see it… you can reform the income tax system or National Insurance administration, but not religion. The Jewish faith was given to us at Sinai and there’s nothing to ‘reform’ about it – you make reforms in a cannery or concerning income tax codes.”

“Let me ask a simple question: If tomorrow a new religious stream arises, do we have to give them their own quarter in the Kotel Plaza?”

“What if the Karaites come tomorrow, should we give them a section as well? There would be no end to it, it’s a total joke. That’s why I say let’s end the argument. Reform Jews in the Diaspora can accept the reality or not accept it; [but] there is no argument over the rules.”

Authorization for mixed prayer space in Kotel plaza Screenshot