Israeli Minister leaves post in protest over expanding Reform prayer site at Western Wall

The Cultural and Sports Minister stepped down as chair of a committee rather than approve a budget for an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev announced Wednesday that she was stepping down as chair of the Ministerial Committee for the Holy Places due to her disagreement with the budget regarding the egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall that must gain the approval of her committee.

The budget of NIS 19 million is meant for the renovation of the mixed-prayer section adjacent to the current prayer area in front of the Western Wall, which is run according to Orthodox Jewish practice.

Speaking on Army Radio Thursday, the minister said that “her conscience” would not allow her to approve the budget, as she had already explained to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Regev listed a few reasons for her objection, one of which was that she did not approve of men and women praying together.

“It’s a religious, moral point that is against my values,” she said.

Another factor in her opposition was that the site exists “informally and illegally… as it’s not anchored in law.”

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Since Netanyahu is determined to go through with the site’s upgrade, he will put someone else on the committee instead of her, she said, which is his right.

The pluralistic site has been a bone of contention between the Israeli government and leaders of Diaspora Jewry, especially in the United States, ever since Netanyahu nixed a resolution last year in favor of a common entrance to both prayer areas as well as a committee running the site that would include Conservative and Reform members. The ultra-Orthodox parties in his coalition objected, saying such a situation would recognize all streams of Judaism as equally valid.

The only part of the resolution that was preserved was the order, backed by the Supreme Court, to expand the Progressive prayer platform near Robinson’s Arch, construct a larger staircase leading up to it and develop the surrounding landscape. Regev objected to this as well.