The interminable power struggle within Israel’s patchwork coalition profoundly damaged the Diaspora this week after the prime minister reneged on his pledge to establish a permanent space for progressive Jews at Judaism’s holiest site.
He may have succeeded in fractionally reinforcing his position by acquiescing to the demands of the Charedi United Torah Judaism Party and Sephardi Orthodox Shas Party, but Benjamin Netanyahu sent a devastating message to Jews worldwide by overturning a decision to create an egalitarian prayer section at the Kotel: non-Orthodox Jews have a home in the Jewish state, but not at its most important site.
The Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism plans to take the battle to Israel’s Supreme Court, while here in the UK rabbis Laura Janner-Klausner of the Reform Movement and Danny Rich of Liberal Judaism did not mince their words, branding the decision a “betrayal of Israeli and Diaspora Jewry.”
Writing on page four of this week’s newspaper, Rabbi Janner-Klausner is even more forthright in her indignation, lamenting: “The Kotel, the remains of the site which once united us, is now used, misused and abused to divide us more than ever.”
The damage to the Jewish world’s fundamental bond with the Jewish state will be significant. By ensuring the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate maintains complete control of the Western Wall – days after ministers approved a bill requiring the state to only recognise conversions under the auspices of the Charedi-dominated Chief Rabbinate – Netanyahu has propped up his position by letting down the Diaspora.