NEW YORK, Nov. 2, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC is appalled and outraged by the violence triggered by Haredi Orthodox Jews at the Kotel (Western Wall), one of Judaism's holiest sites, in Jerusalem today.
AJC urges the Israeli government to implement without further delay its historic decision of January 2016, which permits egalitarian non-Orthodox prayer services at the southern side of the wall.
"Fulfilling this decision on Jewish access to the Kotel is even more imperative after today's outrageous incident," said Steven Bayme, AJC Director of Contemporary Jewish Life. "Violence against a group trying to pray is inexcusable. It is not a vehicle to resolving disputes, and only encourages divisiveness among the Jewish people. The Kotel should be a symbol of Jewish unity, not discord."
For decades, the Conservative and Reform movements, joined by AJC, have demanded equal rights at the Kotel for non-Orthodox worship and religious ceremonies. The landmark compromise, adopted by the Israeli Cabinet on January 31, recognized that the religious status quo at the Western Wall will continue under Orthodox authority. For egalitarian and mixed-gender Conservative and Reform prayers, however, a new space would be created at the southern wall, commonly known as Robinson's Arch.
AJC hailed the government-approved compromise in January. But while all streams of Judaism agreed at the time, the Haredi Orthodox reneged and have steadfastly blocked its implementation.
"The deeply held frustrations of Conservative and Reform Jews, men and women, are entirely understandable," said Bayme. "Their action today renews focus on the desires of all Jews to pray in peace and spiritual comfort at the Kotel. They should not be ignored. In fact, the organizers received a special permit, for the first time, from the police to bring their Torah scrolls to the Kotel."
In a September 2015 letter to AJC, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated his commitment "to strengthening the unity of the Jewish people," and pledged "to unequivocally reject any attempt to divide us or to delegitimize any Jewish community – Reform, Conservative or Orthodox."
AJC has been focusing on issues of religious pluralism in Israel since 2014, when it established the Jewish Religious Equality Coalition (J-REC) to create recognized alternatives to the Chief Rabbinate on procedures relating to marriage and conversion to Judaism.
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SOURCE American Jewish Committee