Western Wall deal nixed, Deri said to tell associates
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Western Wall deal nixed, Deri said to tell associates

Interior minister reportedly says compromise to establish egalitarian prayer plaza won’t happen: ‘The story is over’

A member of the Women of the Wall wears a tallit (prayer shawl)  as she prays holding a Torah scroll at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on March 11, 2016 (AFP/GALI TIBBON)
A member of the Women of the Wall wears a tallit (prayer shawl) as she prays holding a Torah scroll at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on March 11, 2016 (AFP/GALI TIBBON)

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) has indicated that a much-heralded deal to establish an egalitarian prayer section at Jerusalem’s Western Wall has fallen through, telling his associates “the story is over,” Channel 10 news reported Wednesday.

The compromise was announced in January, but has since come under intense criticism from the ultra-Orthodox community.

According to the Channel 10 report, ultra-Orthodox leaders who had signed off on the deal had not anticipated the level of public backlash it has elicited in their electorate. The coalition’s ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism have now effectively buried the deal by threatening to derail and even quit the government should it go forward.

Deri had said Monday that his party would not sit in a government that recognized the Jewish Reform movement.

Shas chairman Aryeh Deri on November 02, 2015 (Miriam Alsterl/Flash90)
Shas chairman Aryeh Deri on November 02, 2015 (Miriam Alsterl/Flash90)

“We won’t sit in a government that recognizes the Reform, not over the Western Wall, not for marriage and not for divorce,” he told Channel 2 news.

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch. (Flash90)
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz. (Flash90)

That same day Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, who had made the deal, retracted his support for it and called on the Knesset’s ultra-Orthodox parties to pass a law repealing it.

A string of ultra-Orthodox leaders have criticized the deal. The day the Israeli government approved the deal, on January 31, UTJ lawmaker Moshe Gafni called Reform Jews “clowns.” In late February, Israel’s chief rabbis asked the government to freeze the agreement.

Conservative Movement in Israel CEO Yizhar Hess said Rabinowitz received the ultra-Orthodox parties’s approval before signing off on the agreement. Now, those same parties won’t stop bashing it.

Deri and his colleagues, said Hess, “threw Rabbi Rabinowitz under the wheels of the bus.”

The deal would expand the wall’s non-Orthodox section and construct a shared entrance for both sides. The Women of the Wall group agreed to move their monthly services to the non-Orthodox section once the deal was implemented.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed the agreement and has since trumpeted it as proof of Israel’s commitment to respecting non-Orthodox Judaism.

JTA contributed to this report.

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