Action urged
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Kotel shenanigans

Action urged

'It is completely unacceptable that Jews cannot freely express their Jewish identity in the State of Israel.'

The Kotel plaza in Jerusalem.
The Kotel plaza in Jerusalem.

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid last week to urge action after worshippers at the Western Wall’s egalitarian prayer space had their services interrupted by an Orthodox mob.

Late last month, several dozen Orthodox men and boys entered the area known as Robinson’s Arch as a number of families from the United States were holding bar mitzvah ceremonies. The youths attempted to disrupt the services, blowing whistles, calling the worshippers “Nazis” and “animals” and at one point ripping up a prayer book, which one boy used a page from to wipe his nose.

It was the latest in a series of similar incidents perpetrated against progressive worshippers.

Ultra-Orthodox youths interrupt a bar mitzvah ceremony at the egalitarian section of the Western Wall on June 30, 2022. Photo: Laura Ben-David

Lapid told a journalist last week, “I am against all violence at the Western Wall against people who want to pray as their faith allows them. This cannot continue.”

In his letter, Leibler thanked the Prime Minister “for your strong words”, but said, “I believe it is time to take stronger action.

“It is completely unacceptable that Jews cannot freely express their Jewish identity in the State of Israel,” Leibler said.

“The government must ensure that police protection is provided to ensure that freedom of worship at the Kotel and that the perpetrators of these attacks must be prosecuted.”

A second letter – co-signed by Union for Progressive Judaism co-presidents David Knoll and Brian Samuel, Australian Reform/Progressive Zionist Association president Helen Shardey and Mercaz-Masorti Australasia president Eric Lundberg – expressed “grave concern in relation to the unwarranted and vicious attack on Progressive and Masorti Jews at the Kotel”.

Ultra-Orthodox youths interrupt a bar mitzvah ceremony at the egalitarian section of the Western Wall in June. Photo: Laura Ben-David

“The openly expressed hatred by any stream of Judaism toward another is certainly not that which Jews expect or accept in our Jewish homeland or anywhere,” they said.

“As someone we know as having expressed support for the Kotel agreement, so that all streams of Judaism in Israel can pray with safety and security at our most sacred place, we now ask you for your action and support in bringing this situation under control.”

They also expressed hope that “a future Israeli government would work toward including representatives of our movements as part of a steering committee to guide policies and standards applying to the egalitarian prayer space of the Kotel”.

WITH TIMES OF ISRAEL

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