Ultra-Reform?Hadas Parush/Flash 90

Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) questioned the sincerity of the Reform movement following its outcry over the government’s decision to shelve a plan for a mixed-gender prayer space at the Kotel (Western Wall) in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Cohen, whose Shas party spearheaded opposition to the plan along with the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party, suggested that the Reform movement’s call for a mixed-gender prayer space was simply “provocation for its own sake.”

“The Kotel doesn’t really interest the Reform,” he told Army Radio this morning, Tuesday. “They don’t believe in it or the Holy Temple. Anybody who wants to come and pray at the Kotel is invited to do so. Nobody is preventing anyone in the world - whether he is Jewish or not - from coming to the Kotel to pray.”

“There are rules that have been in place for hundreds of years already, by which we must abide. Nobody is going to come and decide that we need to change the rules at this site,” he said.

Following the government’s decision on Sunday not to implement the plan, the Reform movement expressed outrage, cancelling a meeting scheduled with the Prime Minister for Thursday in protest.

President of the Union for Reform Judaism in North America Rick Jacobs called the decision a “betrayal,” and said that it signified an “acute crisis” between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.

“We cannot go about our scheduled meetings as if nothing has happened," he said in a statement. "The annulment of the Kotel resolution and the passing of the conversion law have caused an acute crisis between the Israeli government and Diaspora Jewry.”

“The decision cannot be seen as anything other than a betrayal, and I see no point to a meeting at this time. We will make our arguments in the Supreme Court.”

Recent surveys show that 80% of marriages of those affiliated with the Reform movement are interfaith, with very few electing to raise their children as Jews. The Reform movement originally removed Jerusalem and the return to Zion from its prayerbooks, only reversing that decision when Israel began to interest its youth.