I share the following statement released by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) in support of the “Sharansky Proposal” to mediate a solution to the controversy surrounding non-orthodox prayer at the Kotel-
The Sharansky proposal, developed in partnership with denominational leaders of American Jewry, envisions “one Western Wall for one Jewish People,” symbolizing that all Jews have a valued and recognized place at the Kotel, in Israel, and in Jewish life.
The fundamental principles of the Sharansky plan are clearly defined and critically important: creating an area for egalitarian/pluralistic prayer to the right of the ramp to the Temple Mount, an area equal in size and elevation to the existing prayer zone; secure, common, and equal physical access to both the gender-segregated and the egalitarian/pluralistic areas on a 24/7/365 basis; common entries to the public plaza leading to all sections; governance of the egalitarian/pluralistic prayer area and the public plaza outside the present prayer areas by a pluralistic body under the aegis of the Jewish Agency, including leaders of liberal Jewish Movements, rather than the present, Orthodox-dominated Western Wall Heritage Foundation; and transforming the WWHF to reflect the diversity of Jewish belief and practice in Israel and among the Jewish People. While this plan fell considerably short of what the Reform Movement sought, we have expressed willingness to accept its compromises in the interest of shalom bayit.
Solving the issues presented by the Kotel situation is essential to Jewish Unity and Israel’s strategic interests. We urge the Prime Minister’s office, in the strongest possible terms, to commit itself to the Sharansky proposal in its entirety, promptly, publicly, and unequivocally, to formulate both interim and permanent plans consistent with that proposal in partnership with all key stakeholders and to refrain from presenting a proposal until those vital tasks are accomplished.
The steps announced by Interior Minister Naftali Bennett concerning Robinson’s Arch, whatever their potential merits, fall far short of the Sharansky proposal in both substance and process. Fortunately, it appears that press reports that Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mendelblit was about to release a unilateral plan inconsistent with the Sharansky proposal were erroneous.
If the opportunity for a collaborative process and solution is missed and a plan is put forward that diverges in material respects from the Sharansky proposal, it will exacerbate the tensions so many have worked hard to defuse and set back a process in which so much productive effort has been invested.
Rabbi Richard A. Block, CCAR President
Rabbi Steven Fox, CCAR Chief Executive
For the CCAR Board of Trustees