Adonis Diaries

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Jewish diaspora angry as Netanyahu scraps Western Wall mixed prayer plan

Decision to abandon landmark deal described as a ‘slap in the face’ and prompts charity to cancel gala event with Israeli PM

A high-profile body that liaises between Israel and the Jewish diaspora has reacted with fury at a decision by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to in effect abandon a plan to allow men and women to pray together at the Western Wall.

The Jewish Agency has cancelled a gala dinner with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and is to discuss the ramifications of the decision at a meeting this week.

The Israeli cabinet decided on Sunday to scrap a compromise agreement made 17 months ago, which was intended to resolve a battle lasting more than a quarter of a century over equal rights for women praying at the Western Wall. (In 1967, both genders prayed together)

Netanyahu came under intense pressure from ultra-Orthodox parties in his coalition government and the religious authorities that manage the site, the holiest place that Jews can pray.

The plan would have created a new area for worship at the Western Wall for men and women to pray together. At present, prayer areas are segregated, with a small stretch of the wall of the ancient temple reserved for women.

The deal, made in January 2016, was welcomed by liberal and reform Jews, and the feminist group Women of the Wall, which has mounted monthly protests at the Old City site since 1989. The gatherings frequently ended in physical tussles and arrests.

Women of the Wall also demanded an end to ultra-Orthodox bans on women praying aloud, reading from the Torah and wearing traditional prayer shawls, known as tallit.

The compromise followed three years of intense negotiations between liberal Israeli and American Jewish groups and the Israeli authorities and was seen as a significant breakthrough in promoting religious pluralism in Israel, where ultra-Orthodox authorities govern almost every facet of Jewish life. (If this lame issue needed such intense negotiation, what the Palestinians should expect from the right parties in Israel?)

But opposition from Israel’s ultra-Orthodox religious establishment has prevented the agreement from being implemented

Speaking after Sunday’s announcement, Moshe Gafni, the leader of the ultra-religious United Torah Judaism party, said: “We are happy about this, and thank the holy one, blessed is he, on this great success.”

But Anat Hoffman, the chairwoman of Women of the Wall, accused Netanyahu of reneging on a “historic” agreement with liberal Jewish denominations.

“This is a bad day for women in Israel,” she wrote on Facebook.

“The Women of the Wall will continue to worship at the women’s section of the Western Wall with the Torah scroll, prayer shawls and phylacteries until equality for women arrives at the wall as well.” (If there is No equality in praying, what kind of liberal and democratic system are we talking about?)

Natan Sharansky, a former government minister and chairman of the Jewish Agency, who helped broker the original deal, said the move was a “deep disappointment”.

The agreement would have established “a dignified space for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall,’’ Sharansky said. “[The] decision signifies a retreat from that agreement and will make our work to bring Israel and the Jewish world closer together increasingly more difficult.”

The Jewish Agency’s board of governors, which is meeting in Jerusalem this week, said: “In light of [Sunday’s] decisions by the government of Israel, the board of governors of The Jewish Agency for Israel will be changing its entire agenda for the remaining two days of its meetings in Jerusalem, in order to address the ramifications of these decisions.

“The scheduled dinner with the participation of the prime minister has been cancelled.”

A ceremony to mark the opening of the board of governors at the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, on Monday was also cancelled

Salai Meridor, a former head of the Jewish Agency and former ambassador to the US, said the decision was “a slap in the face to world Jewry” and the Western Wall “belongs to all Jews”.

The American Jewish Committee said the decision would weaken ties between American Jewry and Israel.

“The Kotel [Western Wall] belongs to all Jews worldwide, not to a self-appointed segment,” said its chief executive, David Harris. “This decision is a setback for Jewish unity and the essential ties that bind Israel and American Jews, the two largest centres of Jewish life in the world.”

The cabinet decision came before a deadline set by Israel’s high court of justice on Sunday for the state to respond to petitions on its failure to implement the agreement.

Thousands of Jews pray every day at the site, the last remnant of the retaining wall of the Temple Mount, pushing scraps of paper bearing handwritten prayers into the cracks between stones.

The wall also attracts thousands of tourists and international dignitaries, with Pope Francis, Donald Trump and Madonna among global figures who have visited.

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis strictly govern Jewish practices in Israel such as weddings, divorces and burials.

The ultra-Orthodox religious establishment sees itself as responsible for maintaining traditions through centuries of persecution and assimilation, and it resists any inroads from liberals it often considers to be second-class Jews who ordain women and gay people and are overly inclusive toward converts and interfaith marriages.

Note 1: Saudi Kingdom cannot appreciate any Israeli policy Not satisfying gender discrimination and contemplate full support to Israel. Kushner demanded this restriction too.

Note 2: Erecting new settlements by American Jews are matters of doing business and illegal tax dodging on lands robbed from Palestinian owners

Elie Barnavi wrote: “Yes, there are two Israel. There is the idolaters, centered on a divine earth, prisoner of archaic beliefs, and fabricating a strange modern ideology, strange to classical Zionism, and strange to rabbinical Judaism.  There is another Israel, mine, directed to the world community, secular, and rational.”  Barnavi went on: “From this confrontation depends the future of the State of Israel.  Will it continue to be an armed ghetto, isolated from its neighborhood, or a respected member of world communities?  In the long-term, my Israel will win.  I am not sure if we all be dead by then.  The right-wing politics are counting on the diaspora and their ancestral fears of any emerging anti-Semitic feeling and they are willing to die to the last Israeli citizen to keeping occupied land.  The right-wing politics are  counts also on the American Evangelical new-conservatives who claim that the second coming of Christ-King is soon after the Jews have been converted properly.   The right-wing politics in Israel know that it will be the end of their power when peace is achieved; and they mean not to let peace have a chance.”

Bernavi is simplifying the partition into two groups because explaining the subdivisions between the main two politics is infinite in Israel and in the Jewish diaspora.  You have the class divisions among the Sefarad, the Ashkenazi, the indigenous Jews in Palestine and surrounding Arab States and their subsequent caste system into minority religious sects and origins.  You have economic classes such as the rich military industrialists, the growing power in the military hierarchy, the sex trade mafia, the human parts mafia, the hard drug mafia, the new immigrants from Ethiopia and the Slavic new Independent States, the colon problems, the apartheid policies against the invisible Palestinians, the untenable “democratic” system that gives advantages to the hard-line religious parties…

Unlike most intellectuals, Barnavi has no illusions as to the indefinite total support of the US.  Demographic of the US is changing and its focus on its interest in Asia and Africa is encouraging the US to resolving the Palestinian cause, the sooner the better.  The US is convening the Palestinians and Israeli to negotiate directly in Washington this September; the negotiation might take a year but a resolution must be the fruit of this gigantic effort to bring peace in the Near East region.  The US knows that its dominance is dwindling economically, financially, and politically.  The period of destabilizing the Middle East for its oil reserves is over:  The more the Middle East is destabilized the more advantage China, India, and Brazil reap the fruit at the expense of the US.  The fiasco in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the financial crash have demonstrated to the US the limits of adventurous military mentality.  Diplomacy and good business undertaking are the way out of this catastrophic policy.




December 2021

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