Reform Judaism welcomes the unprecedented news that the Israeli government will officially support the creation of an expanded egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem. We congratulate all those who worked so hard to achieve this.
Following three years of intense negotiations, an egalitarian and pluralistic prayer section will be constructed alongside the existing separated sections, the entrance to which will be from the central entry point and will be managed by the Reform and Conservative Movements in Israel and Women of the Wall, together with the Israeli Government.
What this means:
For the first time – Complete and clear Israeli legal recognition of egalitarian prayer in the spirit of Reform and Conservative Judaism as part of the custom of Jewish holy sites.
For the first time – A joint government office with legally binding authority and government funding and official representation from the Reform and Conservative Movements.
For the first time – Any visitor to the Kotel and any family from Israel or from abroad celebrating a bar or bat mitzvah will be able to choose between a separated prayer service with a mechitza (barrier) between women and men and an egalitarian and mixed prayer service.
For the first time – Legally binding recognition of the official status of the upper platform and its usage for ceremonies and national and public events with no separation between men and women and without the coercion of religious norms which are unaccepted by the majority of Israelis (such as the prevention of women from singing).
For the first time – The Reform and Conservative Movements, Women of the Wall, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) have teamed up for a joint and coordinated agreement with the Israeli government regarding matters of religion and state in Israel.
Rabbi Paul Freedman, Chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis, UK said:
“Reform Judaism has an uncompromising commitment to equality and inclusion and it is right that Judaism’s holiest site should be a space that is welcoming to all Jews.
“We are unequivocally committed to the State of Israel; this powerful statement must be the first step towards complete recognition of Progressive Judaism in an Israel that is fully pluralist, celebrating the rich diversity of Jewish life”.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, IMPJ Executive Director, stated that “this Government resolution gives unprecedented recognition to Reform and Conservative Judaism in Israel, puts an end to the monopoly at the Kotel and clearly states that at the holiest site to the Jewish people, and anywhere else, there is more than one way to pray and connect to Jewish tradition.”