The Western Wall Dialogue: A Continuing Saga
During the recent Board of Governors meetings of The Jewish Agency, a resolution was passed calling for renewed dialogue with the Government and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation “to arrive at a satisfactory approach to the issue of prayer at the western wall.”
Following are two letters, the first from Natan Sharansky to Adv. Tzvi Hauser of the Prime Minister’s Office on moving the conversation forward:
November 11 , 2012
Adv. Tzvi Hauser
Prime Minister’s Office
During its most recent meetings, The Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors approved a statement expressing deep concern regarding prayer arrangements at the Western Wall and the conduct of the Israel Police in connection thereto.
Each and every Jew, everywhere in the world and throughout the history of the Jewish people, has always regarded the Western Wall as a most sacred place of worship and as a symbol of the most intimate connection between the People of Israel and the Land of Israel.
This explains why every matter pertaining to the Western Wall, and particularly to the conduct of government authorities in relation thereto, is of such tremendous sensitivity to world Jewry.
We at The Jewish Agency have also encountered difficulties in our efforts to preserve the Western Wall’s centrality and symbolism. Thus, for instance, approximately a year ago, we were compelled to cancel a moving and meaningful ceremony in which new immigrants were to be presented with their identification cards due to an edict banning members of the same family from sitting together in the Western Wall Plaza.
In light of all this, I request that we include issues pertaining to the Western Wall in the roundtable discussions that you and I jointly chair. I further propose that representatives of the streams and of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, as well as representatives of any other relevant body, be invited to our discussions on the subject.
Mr. Hauser’s response
Jerusalem, 23 Heshvan 5773
November 8, 2012
Mr. Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive
The Jewish Agency for Israel
48 King George Street
Natan, my friend,
Thank you for your letter regarding prayer arrangements at the Western Wall, and for your continued efforts on the subject amongst Diaspora Jewry.
A balance must be struck between the right of every person to pray as he wishes, and the need to balance that right with the need to avoid harming the prevailing custom held by others who worship at the Western Wall, and we – the Government of Israel and the leaders of the Jewish people – are responsible for finding appropriate and balanced solutions that address everyone’s needs.
It is in light of this worldview that I have, in recent years, actively promoted the expansion of the prayer area in the southern part of the Western Wall, as well as the area’s formal definition and separation from the archaeological park.
I would be glad to join you in further examining the subject in the context of the roundtable that we jointly head.