Chief Jerusalem rabbi: Egalitarian Western Wall plaza ‘unforgivable’
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Chief Jerusalem rabbi: Egalitarian Western Wall plaza ‘unforgivable’

Shlomo Amar says new pavilion would ‘weaken Jerusalem’ and the Jewish people, refers to Reform, Conservative as ‘wicked’

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar (R) on June 5, 2016 (Courtesy/HaKotel Hesder yeshiva)
Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar (R) on June 5, 2016 (Courtesy/HaKotel Hesder yeshiva)

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.

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