‘Western Wall won’t be split by religious denominations,’ says senior minister

It’s unclear if Elkin’s opposition to the Western Wall deal is vehement enough to potentially cause a coalition crisis.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

A senior government minister is pushing to scrap a Western Wall compromise deal which would see the plaza divvied up by Jewish sect, allowing Reform and Conservative Jews to oversee portions of the holy site.

Soviet-born Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin is pushing to shelve the current compromise in favor of keeping the entire Western Wall site under Israeli government and Jewish Agency control, Kan News reported Monday.

Elkin, who served as a translator for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said in a closed door meeting that he is opposed to granting formal supervisory powers to Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews.

Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid want to advance the split-management outline, which was originally approved by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015 but was put on hold a year later due to pressure from his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.

Currently, only Orthodox style prayer, which mandates segregation by gender and forbids women from reading from the Torah, is allowed at the site.

The largely symbolic gesture to grant space at the wall to non-Orthodox Jewish movements is an olive branch from Israel to diaspora Jews, said Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai.

Shai told the Times of Israel in August 2021 that he hoped the compromise would “address liberal or progressive Jews in America,” some of whom are displeased by the ultra-Orthodox religious establishment in Israel.

Shai said he wanted to demonstrate to diaspora Jews “that Israel is open to different opinions and to different views of Judaism as well — not only about the world as a whole, but even about Judaism.”

It’s unclear if Elkin’s opposition to the Western Wall deal is vehement enough to potentially cause a coalition crisis.

A recent survey from the Maagar Mohot Survey Institute found that 68 percent of Israelis believe the implementation of the Western Wall compromise would inflame tensions within Jewish communities in Israel.

Just 32 percent believe the deal would strengthen ties and boost unity between different Jewish groups.