Yesterday, as we rejoiced in welcoming the new month of Tamuz, our happiness was disrupted by news of two major setbacks for our movement and for freedom of religion in Israel.
On Sunday morning, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government gave into extortion from the ultra-Orthodox parties, suspending the agreement to build an Egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall, which would grant equal access and rights for Jews of all denominations. The "Kotel Agreement" passed nearly 18 months ago after a four-year negotiation process between the Israeli government, the IMPJ and our other liberal partners.
Later in the day we faced further disappointment. The National Conversion Bill – ruling that all conversion in Israel must be under the Chief Rabbinate’s authority – passed the government legislation committee, bringing it one step closer to fruition.
“The decision by the government is a reprehensible and embarrassing surrender to the pressures of the Haredi political parties which severely damages the basic core interests of the state of Israel and the Jewish people. The Prime Minister and his coalition partners actively gave their blessing to this anti-Zionist step that will hurt the relations between Israel and the Diaspora, and weaken the connection of millions of Jews to Jerusalem” Rabbi Gilad Kariv, IMPJ President and CEO, said yesterday. (Read his full statement here)
These developments have been detrimental, not only to the IMPJ and liberal Judaism in Israel, but to millions of Jews worldwide. With these decisions Netanyahu and his government have firmly stated that their loyalties lie not with Am Yisrael, but with a small ultra-Orthodox faction. The severity of these decisions has not gone unnoticed. Our Reform and Progressive friends and partners overseas have all come out against the decision. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, has canceled his meeting with Prime Minster Netanyahu stating, "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." The World Union for Progressive Judaism and ARZENU asserted, "The sacred civil right ‘to live as free people in our land’ has been sold to maintain a weak political coalition. The unity of the Jewish people, a central pillar of Zionism, has been seriously harmed by yesterday's decisions."
The outrage does not stop at Reform and Progressive Jews. The Jewish Agency for Israel, whose Board of Governors is made up of the Jewish Federations of North America, the World Zionist Organization, and Keren Hayesod, have come out strongly against the decisions. They cancelled their meeting with the Prime Minster, presented a resolution calling for the reinstatement of the “Kotel Agreement” and the rescindment of the Conversion Bill, and changed the remainder of the itinerary for their Board of Governors in order to lobby at the Knesset tomorrow.
In the coming days we will update you on the actions we plan to take and we are looking forward to working with you, our partners, in responding to this challenge. We will continue to stand against Sinat Chinam (baseless hatred) and for Ahavat Yisrael (love for one’s fellow Jews) and we will not stop until the Kotel becomes a place for all Jewish people.
For the latest updates as of July 3rd, click here.
Thank you for your unwavering support.