The Fight for Western Wall Egalitarian Prayer and Against the Conversion Law

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At the end of last month, the Israeli cabinet froze a decision to allow egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall, while the Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved the Conversion Law, which would hand a monopoly on Jewish conversion in Israel to the Orthodox rabbinate. New Israel Fund grantees have been at the forefront protesting against the Israeli government’s latest assault on Jewish freedom. On the matter of conversion, the government quickly backtracked, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended his support for the law for six months while a compromise is sought.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism said, “We will make sure that the ultra-Orthodox in Israel will not receive a monopoly on the issue of conversion and if required, we won’t hesitate to return to court.”

For the time being, the Israeli government is still sticking to its decision to freeze plans for a gender egalitarian prayer pavilion at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the Masorti Movement in Israel and Women of the Wallhave led the chorus of condemnation against the government’s assault on religious freedom in Israel. Through media work and grassroots organising — including a demonstration of more than 1,000 people outside of the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem — they have made their voices heard in every major media outlet in Israel.

Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) leaders Anat Hoffman and Noa Sattath described Netanyahu’s decision on the Western Wall as a “slap in the face” to world Jewry.

“We refuse to allow Israel to put all aspects of Jewish life and practice in the hands of the ultra-Orthodox Rabbinate,” they said. “They will not define who is a Jew and how to be Jewish.”

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