Egalitarian Prayer at the Kotel

February 8, 2022

Egalitarian Prayer at the Kotel

By Rhoda Smolow and Naomi Adler

We've been greatly concerned by this month's news reports that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government would not implement the 2016 agreement to set up a permanent space for egalitarian prayer beside the Western Wall plaza, ensuring that Judaism's holiest site is accessible to all Jews. The failure of successive governments to demonstrate respect for pluralism has instead created stronger division, strained Israel's relationships with world Jewry and dampened Israel's commitment to religious freedom.

In 2016 we applauded the historic decision to create a space for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall. In June 2017, we wrote in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) about our dismay that the Israeli government was not willing to follow through on their commitment. As JAFI wrote, there must be "one wall for one people."

The bond between Hadassah and Israel is unbreakable.

We have always and will always support the democratically elected Government of Israel. We are proud Zionists, and nothing whatsoever can shake our commitment to keeping Israel safe, secure and healthy.

For many American Jews, the Kotel is considered a sacred space to visit as well as a symbol of acceptance. The prime minister should lead his coalition to be more open to pluralistic practices while ensuring that there is a place at the wall where all Jews can pray comfortably. We will continue to urge the Israeli government to implement an egalitarian space at the Kotel and work toward creating a more inclusive Israel. We urge the prime minister to work with his coalition to advance full implementation. Full implementation of the agreement is long overdue. The status quo is unacceptable, and it must change.

As the leaders of the world’s largest women's Zionist organization, we can assure you that Hadassah will continue to advocate for inclusivity, including the right to pray, individually and collectively, freely, without harassment and in accordance with our own individual religious practices.

Rhoda Smolow is Hadassah National President, and Naomi Adler is Hadassah CEO.

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