Western Wall rabbi reportedly withdraws support for egalitarian prayer space


(JTA) — The Western Wall rabbi reportedly withdrew his support for a deal establishing a separate egalitarian prayer section at the holy site.

Shmuel Rabinowitz in a letter Monday urged haredi Orthodox party leaders to introduce legislation to cancel the Jan. 31 deal and a 2013 district court ruling allowing the Women of the Wall group to pray in the main Orthodox section of the wall, Haaretz reported.

“I call upon you to act with the same determination to stop the holy site desecration at the Western Wall, whose spiritual damage is beyond imagination,” he wrote, according to Haaretz.

“For years I have stood alone in the struggle” against modern streams of Judaism, including Women of the Wall, seeking prayer rights at the site, Haaretz reported Rabinowitz writing. Women of the Wall have “now gone too far, they are seeking to tear down the wall and the people of Israel into bits and pieces.”

The deal expands the Western Wall’s existing non-Orthodox prayer section and creates a shared entrance with the Orthodox main section to its north. Women of the Wall, which holds women’s services in the Orthodox section, eventually is to move to the non-Orthodox section as part of the deal — which is backed by the Reform and Conservative movements, the Israeli government and the wall’s haredi management.

Israel’s chief rabbis, Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau, oppose the deal, as does Religious Services Minister David Azoulay, who has called Reform Jews “a disaster for the people of Israel.”

Also Monday, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri told Channel 2 that his Shas party would not sit in a government that recognizes the Reform movement.

“We won’t sit in a government that recognizes the Reform, not over the Western Wall, not for marriage and not for divorce,” Deri told Channel 2 in an interview, referring to all non-Orthodox denominations.

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