LOS ANGELES — President Reuven Rivlin on Monday lamented the Western Wall’s transformation into “a symbol of division and disagreement” between Israel and the Diaspora, and expressed hope that understandings would soon be reached on egalitarian prayer at the holy site.
Addressing the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Los Angeles, Rivlin said, “It causes such pain that the symbol of unity, the Wall of our Tears and Joy, has become a symbol of division and disagreement.
“I hope that in the future we can return to the table together, and reach an understanding on this important issue.”
He added that it was important to “respect Israel’s democratic process, the decision-making process. Whether we like it or not, in the only Jewish democratic state, ‘religion and state’ is a political issue — maybe the most explosive one.”
The government earlier this year suspended an agreement that would have upgraded the egalitarian prayer platform adjacent to the main plaza at the holy site, and set it up as a permanent prayer site. The decision led to widespread anger in the Jewish world, and faith leaders have warned of a growing rift between Israel and the diaspora over the former’s treatment of the non-ultra-Orthodox streams of Judaism.
Rivlin said Israel “was, and will always be, the home of every Jew: Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, secular, traditional, Ashkenazi, Sephardi. Jews. We are all one people, and Israel is dear to all of us.
“The Jews of the Diaspora, especially in North America, are full partners,” he said. “You are true stakeholders in this wonder called Israel. You stand beside us at times of crisis and joy. You dream with us. You challenge us. You help keep us strong.”
That support, he said, “cannot be taken for granted.”
Rivlin said Jews should stand together “against anti-Semitism in all its forms, from the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, to terror attacks against our brothers and sisters around the world, from BDS on campuses, to attacking Israel’s legitimacy in the United Nations. There is no room for hesitation, we must continue the fight against it as one united front.”
He also spoke of a need to preserve Jewish identity “and to pass it from one generation to the next,” as well as an imperative of safeguarding Israel — facing the Iranian threat to Israel and the region and ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The lives of Palestinians and Israelis, Arabs and Jews, are bound together,” he said. “We live side by side, and with each other. We share the same land, the same holy places, the same water and the same sky. There will be no peace, until we all understand that we are not doomed to live together, it is our destiny to live together”