The Am Echad organization, which is committed to strengthening the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry, last week sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, protesting the proposed new plan for the Western Wall, or "Kotel," compound and urging the government to rethink its steps.
The organization prefaced its letter by noting that it brings together "dozens of leaders from Jewish organizations the world over." It added, "These organizations work tirelessly to achieve the critical missions of strengthening Jewish identity and cementing the bond between Jewish communities from around the world and Israel."
The letter, which was signed by Am Echa's co-chairmen Shlomo Werdiger and Dr. Irving Lebovics, continued: "As your government is planning to implement the Kotel Deal, we are writing to you to warn you against this critical mistake, which will pose tremendous danger to the continued unity of our people and to the connection between the Jewish communities and Israel. Not only will this move do nothing to bring the various Jewish communities together, but on the contrary, it will deepen the rift and distance Jews from Israel and from each other," the letter stressed.
"The Kotel is the heart of the Jewish people. Despite the differences between us, we are all united around the Kotel. In front of its stones, we are all inspired by our nation’s millennia-old tradition and history. The partitioning of the Kotel will eternalize the divisions among the Jewish People, quite literally setting them in stone.
"Moreover, the idea that the partitioning of the Kotel will boost the connection between Diaspora Jewry and Israel is fundamentally false. From our work in the trenches, we say unequivocally that the distancing of certain parts of Diaspora Jewry from Israel is in no way caused by Israel’s policy at the Kotel, but rather by the disconnect from their own Jewish identity."
The letter also emphasized that, "Recent studies of Diaspora Jewry, such as the Pew Report, show a clear correlation between the depths of Jewish identity and the affinity for Israel. Only a massive investment in Jewish education and identity programming can bring young Diaspora Jews to once again identify with Israel."
"In contrast, the damage inherent in the deal is enormous. Historically, communities loyal to Jewish tradition have also shown the greatest interest, support, and loyalty to Israel.
"These communities are more involved than anyone else in programs to strengthen Jewish identity among all sections of the Diaspora, as a reflection of our shared destiny and common Jewish values.
"The implementation of the Kotel Deal and the balkanization of the place so holy and dear for all of us, while violating the millennia-old prayer tradition will send a clear message to these communities that the State of Israel has given up on our sacred values and bonds."
"Therefore," the letter concluded, "we would like to reiterate that large swaths of Diaspora Jewry, especially those that feel the closest connection and affinity to Israel, are strongly opposed to the
partitioning of the Kotel. Any attempt to implement the Kotel deal will lead to unnecessary stand-offs, which will only serve to undermine the unifying force of the Kotel as one of the last symbol of Jewish unity."