In response to the Knesset vote on Sunday, June 23 regarding the Western Wall agreement, below is the response released by the Chairman of UJA Federation's overseas partner, The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), Natan Sharansky:
“As Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel, and on behalf of our partners, I must express my deep disappointment at today's decision by the Government of Israel to suspend the implementation of its own decision to establish a dignified space for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall.
Five years ago, the Prime Minister asked me to lead a joint effort to bring about a workable formula that would transform the Western Wall into, in his own words, ‘one wall for one people.’
After four years of intense negotiations, we reached a solution that was accepted by all major denominations and was then adopted by the government and embraced by the world's Jewish communities.
Today’s decision signifies a retreat from that agreement and will make our work to bring Israel and the Jewish world closer together increasingly more difficult.
The Jewish Agency nevertheless remains staunchly committed to that work and to the principle of one wall for one people.”
- Natan Sharansky, Chairman, JAFI
Jewish Agency Board of Governors Unanimously Denounces Government Decisions on Western Wall and Conversion, Calls on Government to Reverse Course
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – The Board of Governors of The Jewish Agency for Israel, composed of the leaders of Jewish organizations and communities in Israel and around the world, has unanimously adopted the following resolution:
Whereas the Jewish Agency for Israel, representing world Jewry through its constituent members, the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod, is gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, the liberation of the Western Wall and the founding of the Zionist movement in Basel 120 years ago; and
Whereas the Jewish Agency for Israel throughout its history has been the organization responsible for bringing olim to the State of Israel and connecting Israel and world Jewry; and
Whereas the proposed conversion bill that would cement the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly on conversion has the devastating potential to permanently exclude hundreds of thousands of Israelis from being a part of the Jewish people; and
Whereas we deplore yesterday's decision by Government of Israel which contradicts the agreement reached with the Jewish Agency and other parties to establish the Kotel as a unifying symbol for Jews around the world, as stated: 'ONE WALL FOR ONE PEOPLE'; and
Whereas the Government of Israel's decisions have a deep potential to divide the Jewish people and to undermine the Zionist vision and dream of Herzl, Ben-Gurion, and Jabotinsky to establish Israel as a national home for the entire Jewish people; and
Whereas we declare that we cannot and must not allow this to happen and we are committed to mobilizing our constituencies for their continued support of the people and state of Israel;
Therefore, be it resolved that
We call upon each Member of the Knesset and all elected public officials to take all necessary action to ensure that these dangerous and damaging steps are halted; and
We will continue to build a broad coalition of Israelis, together with partners from around the world, who care passionately about keeping our people united and who are committed to the unity of the Jewish people; and
We call upon the Government of Israel to understand the gravity of its steps and reverse its course of action accordingly.