Jerusalem’s Sephardic chief rabbi on Sunday said a new mixed-gender plaza at the Western Wall would constitute an “unforgivable wrong” that will “weaken Jerusalem” and the Jewish people.
In his remarks, Shlomo Amar referred to the non-Orthodox supporters of the plan as “wicked” people who would “find themselves outside” the Jewish people if their lineage was examined to establish their Jewishness.
Amar condemned “giving an area [at the Western Wall] to the “people for whom it is said ‘move away from the tents of these wicked people,'” a reference to the biblical Korach, who challenges Moses.
It is an “unforgivable wrong, a sin that begets more. And if we do not maintain our holy commitment on these matters, we will find ourselves immediately dragged into things that will lead to a schism among the people.”
The issue of the new pavilion has pitted the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel and the United States against Israel’s Haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate, which administers the site.
“There are people who are trying to weaken the nation and weaken Jerusalem. And when you weaken Jerusalem — you weaken the entire nation,” charged Amar.
The Sephardic chief rabbi also suggested that if the non-Orthodox’s Jewish lineage was scrutinized “they would find themselves outside” of Judaism.
The Western Wall compromise, passed in a January 31 cabinet decision that reflected the work of years of negotiations, called for a permanent prayer platform to be built along the southern end of the Western Wall in an area of the Davidson Archeological park, otherwise known as Robinson’s Arch. There is currently a temporary prayer platform set up there in two distinct areas of the park.
The plan was heralded as a symbol of “Jewish unity” throughout most of the Jewish Diaspora. But within days of its jubilant announcement — a headline which splashed across international media — the cabinet decision drew the ire of the ultra-Orthodox parties in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition who view the Western Wall pavilion as an open-air Orthodox synagogue. Its implementation has been stymied for the past four months.
Last week, US Jewish leaders met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem to discuss the plaza.