Fall 2000

MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Fall 2000

Egalitarian Prayer Ok'ed At Western Wall

The Masorti Movement reached a historic agreement with the government of Israel regarding Conservative prayer at the southern end of the Western Wall. The site, often referred to as "Robinson's Arch", was inaugurated on Shavuot. Since then, weekly morning services have been conducted without interference. Also significant in the agreement is the fact that the government took upon itself, for the first time, to provide all religious items needed for the prayer service, such as prayer books, tallitot and reader's table.

Rabbi Ehud Bandel, President of the Masorti Movement stated: "This is a major step forward in the push for religious pluralism in Israel. It is a day in which both the operational authority (government) and the judicial authority (Supreme Court) have accepted the principle that every Jew has the right to pray at the site most holy to the Jewish people, in keeping with his/her custom."

In a letter dated June 15th, addressed to Yitzhak Herzog, the Israeli government's Secretary-General, the Leadership Council of Conservative Judaism congratulated Prime Minister Ehud Barak "in taking the first step to recognize the principle of religious equality." "While we know full well that at different times over the past thirty-three years such egalitarian services have taken place at the traditional plaza of the Western Wall, at the same time, we see this decision as an important first step in the implementation of full religious pluralism in Israel."

Joining with the other members of the LCCJ, Evelyn Seelig, MERCAZ President, added, "We are grateful to have secured finally a site for our services that will enjoy all the same level of governmental support enjoyed by all other minyanim at the Kotel."

Rabbi Bandel noted that the Masorti Movement's agreement with the government of Israel does not diminish its claim to pray at the traditional Kotel Plaza. Nevertheless, "we have decided to enter into a twelve month trial period out of a desire to avoid friction and conflict which could, God forbid, lead to bloodshed."


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