Students at Edinburgh University voted to boycott Israel

Students at Edinburgh University voted to boycott Israel. A professor and expert on Middle East taught them, point by point, why they were so wrong. A must read!

Dr. Denis MacEoin, a non-Jewish Scottish professor, wrote a letter to his students who had voted to boycott Israel, explaining why that was so wrong.

The Edinburgh Student’s Association (EUSA) had put forward a motion to boycott all things Israeli, claiming that Israel is under an apartheid regime.

Dr. Denis MacEoin

MacEoin is an expert in Middle Eastern affairs and was a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly. Following is his letter to the students:

TO: The Committee Edinburgh University Student Association.

May I be permitted to say a few words to members of the EUSA? I am an Edinburgh graduate (MA 1975) who studied Persian, Arabic and Islamic History in Buccleuch Place under William Montgomery Watt and Laurence Elwell Sutton, two of Britain ‘s great Middle East experts in their day. I later went on to do a PhD at Cambridge and to teach Arabic and Islamic Studies at Newcastle University . Naturally, I am the author of several books and hundreds of articles in this field. I say all that to show that I am well informed in Middle Eastern affairs and that, for that reason, I am shocked and disheartened by the EUSA motion and vote.

What About the Facts? Reality?
I am shocked for a simple reason: there is not and has never been a system of apartheid in Israel. That is not my opinion, that is fact that can be tested against reality by any Edinburgh student, should he or she choose to visit Israel to see for themselves. Let me spell this out, since I have the impression that those members of EUSA who voted for this motion are absolutely clueless in matters concerning Israel, and that they are, in all likelihood, the victims of extremely biased propaganda coming from the anti-Israel lobby.

Being anti-Israel is not in itself objectionable. But I’m not talking about ordinary criticism of Israel. I’m speaking of a hatred that permits itself no boundaries in the lies and myths it pours out. Thus, Israel is repeatedly referred to as a “Nazi” state. In what sense is this true, even as a metaphor? Where are the Israeli concentration camps? The einzatsgruppen? The SS? The Nuremberg Laws? The Final Solution? None of these things nor anything remotely resembling them exists in Israel, precisely because the Jews, more than anyone on earth, understand what Nazism stood for.

It is claimed that there has been an Israeli Holocaust in Gaza (or elsewhere). Where? When? No honest historian would treat that claim with anything but the contempt it deserves. But calling Jews Nazis and saying they have committed a Holocaust is as basic a way to subvert historical fact as anything I can think of.

Likewise apartheid. For apartheid to exist, there would have to be a situation that closely resembled how things were in South Africa under the apartheid regime. Unfortunately for those who believe this, a weekend in any part of Israel would be enough to show how ridiculous the claim is.

Sad Comment on the State of Modern Education
That a body of university students actually fell for this and voted on it is a sad comment on the state of modern education. The most obvious focus for apartheid would be the country’s 20% Arab population. Under Israeli law, Arab Israelis have exactly the same rights as Jews or anyone else; Muslims have the same rights as Jews or Christians; Baha’is, severely persecuted in Iran, flourish in Israel, where they have their world center; Ahmadi Muslims, severely persecuted in Pakistan and elsewhere, are kept safe by Israel; the holy places of all religions are protected under a specific Israeli law. Arabs form 20% of the university population (an exact echo of their percentage in the general population).

In Iran, the Bahai’s (the largest religious minority) are forbidden to study in any university or to run their own universities: why aren’t your members boycotting Iran? Arabs in Israel can go anywhere they want, unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa. They use public transport, they eat in restaurants, they go to swimming pools, they use libraries, they go to cinemas alongside Jews – something no blacks were able to do inSouth Africa.

Israeli hospitals not only treat Jews and Arabs, they also treat Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank. On the same wards, in the same operating theatres.

In Israel , women have the same rights as men: there is no gender apartheid. Gay men and women face no restrictions, and Palestinian gays often escape into Israel, knowing they may be killed at home.

It seems bizarre to me that LGBT groups call for a boycott of Israel and say nothing about countries like Iran, where gay men are hanged or stoned to death. That illustrates a mindset that beggars belief.

Intelligent students thinking it’s better to be silent about regimes that kill gay people, but good to condemn the only country in the Middle East that rescues and protects gay people. Is that supposed to be a sick joke?

Students Who Have No Idea How to Think
University is supposed to be about learning to use your brain, to think rationally, to examine evidence, to reach conclusions based on solid evidence, to compare sources, to weigh up one view against one or more others. If the best Edinburgh can now produce are students who have no idea how to do any of these things, then the future is bleak.

I do not object to well-documented criticism of Israel. I do object when supposedly intelligent people single the Jewish state out above states that are horrific in their treatment of their populations. We are going through the biggest upheaval in the Middle East since the 7th and 8th centuries, and it’s clear that Arabs and Iranians are rebelling against terrifying regimes that fight back by killing their own citizens.

Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, do not rebel (though they are free to protest). Yet Edinburgh students mount no demonstrations and call for no boycotts against Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iran. They prefer to make false accusations against one of the world’s freest countries, the only country in the Middle East that has taken in Darfur refugees, the only country in the Middle East that gives refuge to gay men and women, the only country in the Middle East that protects the Bahai’s… Need I go on?

The imbalance is perceptible, and it sheds no credit on anyone who voted for this boycott. I ask you to show some common sense. Get information from the Israeli embassy. Ask for some speakers. Listen to more than one side. Do not make your minds up until you have given a fair hearing to both parties. You have a duty to your students, and that is to protect them from one-sided argument.

They are not at university to be propagandized. And they are certainly not there to be tricked into anti-Semitism by punishing one country among all the countries of the world, which happens to be the only Jewish state. If there had been a single Jewish state in the 1930’s (which, sadly, there was not), don’t you think Adolf Hitler would have decided to boycott it?

Your generation has a duty to ensure that the perennial racism of anti-Semitism never sets down roots among you. Today, however, there are clear signs that it has done so and is putting down more. You have a chance to avert a very great evil, simply by using reason and a sense of fair play. Please tell me that this makes sense. I have given you some of the evidence. It’s up to you to find out more.

Yours sincerely,
Denis MacEoin

In follow up to the above

Edinburgh University BDS vote overturned

The board of trustees of Edinburgh University Student’s Association (EUSA) has refused to enforce the BDS policy passed by the student council earlier this year.

Image result for edinburgh university

The motion to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) policy was passed on 31 March by 249-153 votes with 22 abstentions, giving a majority of 74.

The Israel Engagement Society (IES) described the motion as “irresponsible” and “intolerant” and welcomed the move, saying that “EUSA’s dropping of the policy follows a precedent set by other universities, recognising the illegality of BDS and the significant risk of increasing intolerance against minority groups on campus that it poses.”

Theo Robertson-Bonds, IES vice-chair, said he was “delighted” by the verdict.

“Singling out and boycotting the world’s only Jewish state is a reckless, divisive policy that does nothing to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said.

“I am delighted that EUSA’s Trustee Board has taken this issue seriously and ensured our campus remains safe and inclusive for all students by refusing to enact it. IES will continue to work with the university and EUSA to promote peace and discussion around a two-state solution on campus.”

Although the BDS motion will not be enacted, EUSA’s website will continue to show the policy as having passed at the Student Council.

At the time of the vote, concerns were raised about the legality of the motion by both IES members and representatives of EUSA, and IES maintains that the turnout of 1.19% of student electors “makes the mandate of such a divisive motion highly questionable.”

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Letter to a messianic about a Messiah

Letter to SY about Messiah

Posted on December 21, 2010 by 

The following essay was sent to a Messianic leader. He suggested that we exchange our respective views about the Messiah that was predicted by the prophets of the Jewish Scriptures. I sent him my point of view, but I never received any response from him. I do find it interesting that most of my correspondence with Messianics and Christians adhere to the same template. I write something based on Scripture, and the response I get is generally the same: silence. I wonder why?

pig

As we agreed – here is my presentation of the Messiah from the perspective of the Jewish Scriptures.

Genesis 49:10 tells us that the Messiah will have the nations gather to him.

Numbers 24:17-19 tells us that the Messiah will achieve military victory over Israel’s enemies.

Isaiah 11:1-12:6 Describes a leader imbued with a spirit of God, wisdom, understanding, council, strength, knowledge and fear of God. He will be a righteous judge and he will smite the wicked dead. Here too, it speaks of the nations seeking him (11:10 – as in Genesis 49:10).

In this passage we get a description of the times of the Messiah. The prophet speaks of universal peace and universal knowledge of God (11:6-9). The prophet speaks of the ingathering of Israel’s exiles (11:11 -16) and Israel’s victory over her enemies (11:14 – as in Numbers 24:17-19).

The prophet then describes Israel’s song and exultation in praise of God (12:1-6).

Isaiah 55:3,4 speaks of God’s kindness towards David and how He has appointed Him a leader and a commander for the nations. My understanding of this passage is that it refers to David’s descendant; the Messiah. God’s promises to David are fulfilled through this descendant of his. This fits in with the other prophecies that refer to the Messiah (Genesis 49:10, Isaiah 11:10).

Jeremiah 3:15 speaks of shepherds after God’s heart implying that the Messiah will not rule alone but that there will be a plurality of leaders in that time. This concept is repeated in Obadiah 1:21and Micah 5:4.

Jeremiah 23:5-8 and 33:14-16 describe Messiah as a king who executes justice and charity and that there will be security for Israel in his days.

Jeremiah 30:9 refers to the Messiah as “David” – as does Ezekiel (34:23,24, 37:24) and Hosea (3:5). I want to talk about this point at length after I finish listing the Scriptural references.

Jeremiah 30:21 tells us that the Messiah will be one of us (the Jewish people at the end of time will consider him one of their own) and that God will have to bring the Messiah close to Himself – because who would dare approach God.

Ezekiel 34:23-31 speaks of the Messiah as a shepherd and a prince. The prophet describes the times as a period of peace, security and great bounty.

Ezekiel 37:22-28 also speaks of the Messiah and his times. It speaks of the Temple being rebuilt, Israel’s reconciliation with God, ingathering of the exiles, observance of the Law, and a covenant of peace.

Ezekiel 44:3 speaks of the privilege of the prince/Messiah to eat his offerings in a special area of the Temple (reminiscent of Jeremiah 30:21).

Ezekiel 45:7,8 speaks of the land that will be designated for the Messiah in the end-times.

Ezekiel 45:16,17 speaks of the messiah’s responsibility to pay for the communal offerings of the holidays.

Ezekiel 45:22 speaks of the Messiah’s responsibility to bring a sin-offering for himself and for the nation.

Throughout chapter 46 (Ezekiel) we learn of various privileges and responsibilities of the Messiah (verses 2,4,8,10,12,15-18).

Micah 5:3 speaks of the Messiah shepherding Israel with the might of God, Israel will return from the exile, and the fame of the Messiah will reach the ends of the earth. (Note that Micah 5:1 tells us that the Messiah will be from the Bethlhemite clan – in keeping with the promise to David).

According to many commentators, Zechariah 9:9,10 also refer to the Messiah. Here he is described as righteous and poor – riding on a donkey. He will rule with peace over the ends of the earth.

Zechariah chapters 12 and 13 refer to the house of David in a position of leadership in the end-times – also a Messianic reference (12:7,8,10,12, 13;1). Here too, we have a description of a military victory of Israel over her enemies.

I think that these are the Scriptural references of the man Messiah that are most explicit and clear. The picture we gather is that the Messiah will be a wise and righteous king of the Davidic dynasty who will rule over Israel in an era when all the nations recognize Israel’s role as God’s firstborn son. Thus all of the nations will be subject to the Messiah as part of their submission to Israel (Isaiah 60:12).

It is clear that the times of the Messiah are those glorious end-times that are so vividly described by the prophets (Deuteronomy 4:30, 30:1-10, 32:43, Jeremiah 3:14-18, 16:14,15,19, 23:3-6, 30:3,7-11,16-25, 31:1-39, 32:37-44, 33:6-26, 46:27,28, 50:4,5,19,20, Ezekiel 11:17-20, 20:40-44, 28:25-26, 34:9-16,22-31, 36:6-15,22-38, 37:1-28, 38:1-48:35, Isaiah 1:26,27, 2:2-4, 4:2-6, 10:33-12:6, 24:21-25:9, 30:26, 34:1-35, 40:1-11, 41:10-20, 43:5-10, 44:1-5 49:8-26, 51:11,22-52:12, 54:1-55:5, 56:7, 60:1-63:9, 65:17-25, 66:10-24, Hosea 2:1-3,16-25, Joel 3;1-5, 4:1-21, Amos 9:11-15, Obadiah 1:17-21, Micah 4:1-7, 5:1-13, 7:8-20, Zephaniah 3:9-20, Zechariah 2:9, 8:2-8, 14:3-21, Malachi 3:4,16-24, Psalm 51:20,21, 69:36,37, 98:1-3, 102:14-23, 126:1-6, Daniel 2:44, 7:18,22,27, 12:2,3,)

The fact that the prophets refer to the Messiah by the name; David, tells us that the Messiah will be like David. Of all of the characters in the Jewish Scripture, we know David best. His entire heart is open for all to read in the Book of Psalms. David loved God with all of his heart and his words reflect that love. David was totally self-effacing before God. He publicly recognized and acknowledged his failings and sins before God. The utter humility of David before God, and David’s all-consuming love of God touched the heart of Israel and continues to touch Israel’s heart to this very day. The prophet describes David as the one who gives pleasantness to Israel’s song (2Samuel 23:1). David is the ultimate human king. David was the man who had the ability to lead his people to spiritual victory as well as military victory without diverting the attention of the people to himself. David directed everyone’s devotion to God and to God alone. With David as our king the sovereignty of God is in no way eclipsed. This is what we look forward to. We look forward to a time when everyone is absolutely cognizant of God’s absolute sovereignty – under a king who continuously inspires us to increase and grow in our awareness of God’s absolute sovereignty and love

I think this sums up my understanding of the Messiah – I am looking forward to hearing your perspective.

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“There’s Nothing New Under the Sun”

Hayovel

Tishrei 5778

I regret that the subject of the first post of the new year will be Tommy Waller, but evil doesn’t take holidays. In fact, it seems to ramp up around the holidays. Even now, Xians are pouring into Israel for “The Feast”, as they do every year at this time, and all of them are looking for a weak place through the Jewish armor to reach the Jewish soul and steal it for Yeshu.

A few people have asked my opinion about the new video of Tommy Waller calling on his fellow Xians to renounce “replacement theology.” Sadly, I must tell you that absolutely nothing has changed here.

Since the beginning of their ministry, the Wallers have said that they do not want Jews to become “Xians,” i.e., give up Jewish practice and ritual, but they do want them to be “messianic” Jews, i.e. believers in Yeshu (without giving up Jewish ritual).

Giving up replacement theology simply means agreeing that Jews, as Jews who believe in Yeshu and go to “synagogue” instead of church, ALSO have a place alongside the rest of Christendom. This is just a last, sad and bad attempt on the part of Xians to reel in the Jewish fish by trying to convince them that they can live on the land and yet remain fish.

In the past, a Jew who believed Yeshu was the messiah had to convert to another religion, leave the synagogue forever and go to church. As a demonstration of his sincerity, he was required to eat a ham sandwich. Why? Because, according to the Xians of those times, God was through with the Jews and had a new people known as the church. If a Jew wanted to be counted as part of God’s people he had to give up on being a Jew and become a Xian.

What Tommy Waller and his fellow “Israel-loving” Xians claim to have suddenly discovered is that a Jew can remain a Jew and still come to faith in their Yeshu, who is also reclaiming his Jewishness in these latter days. They still believe that only those who put their faith and hope in Yeshu will be redeemed, but it includes both those who identify as Jewish as well as those who identify as Xian. The two are “one new man” with their shared belief in Yeshu and together they are equal heirs of the promises made to the forefathers: Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’aqov.

Tommy’s little speech is absolutely nothing new. It’s the same thing Jews for Jesus has been saying for the past fifty years.

See herehere and here.

This is my message to Tommy Waller:

This is just another misguided attempt to convince Jews to take another look at Yeshu, to present him and his message in a more acceptable light. Your problem is – you are still wrong. Yeshu was NOT a good Jew. He was NOT G-d. He was a man who sinned and died for his own sins. He saved no one, not then, not now and not ever. He never was and never will be the Messiah.

There is some perverseness in the hearts of Xians who can come so close to the truth and yet fail to recognize it and embrace it. Your judgment and consequently, your punishment, will be especially severe. I urge you to consider the possibility that you could be mistaken. That is your first step towards real salvation.

Anti-Semitic Sculpture Outside Luther’s Church Creates Controversy

The highly anticipated 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is coming up in 2017 and the epicenter of the Reformation, Wittenberg, Germany, has been preparing for years. Visitors from around the world are already trickling in to visit historical sites such as the Castle Church where Martin Luther is purported to have posted his 95 Theses condemning the Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences.

However, St. Mary’s, or the Town Church, in Wittenberg, where Luther regularly preached, married his wife Katharina von Bora, and baptized their six children, is currently drawing greater attention because of a challenge to remove a 700-year-old anti-Semitic sculpture from its facade:

Anti-Semitic Sculpture Outside Luther's Church Creates Controversy

Donniel Hartman Is So…Yesterday!

BY · JUNE 30, 2016

hartman

In a new twist on the old “Jews to the back of the bus” routine, Donniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, wants the Jewish G-d to take a back seat as well. In an extensive interview in the Times of Israel, Hartman explains the thesis of his new book, Putting G-d Second. The purpose of religion ought to be the creation of the ethical personality.

I think God wants to be second… God didn’t come into this world for self-aggrandizement. It was in order to create a different type of human being, in order to elevate this world. But unfortunately, through God intoxication and God manipulation, the idea of God becomes a catalyst for evil. God intoxication is where our devotion to God is so all consuming that we no longer hear or see the needs of others….The more we put ethics first, the more I am a religious person [and the less that God is] a destructive force in our lives.

Hartman sees this preoccupation with G-d as blinding us to the plight of Palestinians and migrants seeking entry to Israel. He notes that in all of Israel’s wars, it was religious MKs who pushed for pushing on in battle while their more secular colleagues wanted to call it quits.

Religion gets in the way of what should be our real focus: inculcating ethical values in our personalities, and democratic processes in our societies.

He does not want to do away with religion as we know it. He wishes for G-d to be number two, not to disappear, or even show up as number twenty. Two can’t be so bad, he says. Religion is a “powerful vehicle” for making ethics central to our lives. And while the violation of the ethical renders all other attempts at spirituality meaningless, there are spiritual dimensions that are valuable if the ethical is there, front and center. Religion can transmit them. Moreover, religion helps create community, which banishes loneliness. So we ought not to discard or minimize religious practice – as long as it does not interfere with the primary goal of ethical development. (He therefore mocks the notion of an Orthodox woman at Bar Ilan not singing at a Holocaust commemoration, in deference to the halachah of kol ishah, which interferes with our ethical sense of egalitarianism. And he tells baalei teshuvah that if they refuse to eat at their non-observant parents’ home, they can stop calling themselves his students.) To the contrary, Hartman wishes that Israel firmly embrace a Judaism whose first passion is the ethical, and bringing its values to the rest of the world.

None of this is particularly new. It is rather old and tired. The derogation of the ritual and ceremonial in favor of the ethical has a storied past, all of it ending the same way. More religious denominations than we can easily keep track of – Jewish and otherwise – hoped to revitalize interest by accentuating good character, or (more recently) good deeds. Think, in modern times, of Felix Adler’s (said to having been inspired by a Berlin lecture by Rav Yisroel Salanter) Ethical Culture, and what is left of it. Consider the attempts by the mainline Protestant denominations move towards social justice as their primary concerns. Or the elevation of so-called tikun olam as the only principle of faith of the Jewish heterodox movements. What they all share is younger people stampeding out the door, fossilizing those who remain behind. Without coupling character and social action with responsibility to a personal Creator, too many give up on the entire enterprise of religion. We have very little reason to believe that all those who have fled from religion are better people, or have succeeded in making ours a better world. Meanwhile, the only group within Judaism that is growing is Orthodoxy, with its insistence on G-d centeredness. And in the Christian world, the fastest growing group are Pentacostals, who distinguish themselves for seeking an immediate, strong connection with G-d.

Hartman is also so….incredibly wrong on the intellectual level. The words that stood and stand before the baal tefilah for centuries – שויתי ה לנגדי תמיד (Tehillim 16:8) cannot possibly be rendered, “I have set Hashem before me some of the time.” Hartman would certainly cheer Rambam (Shemonah Perakim), who insisted that the development of an ethical character should optimally become a natural part of one’s personality, rather than a response to Divine command. The same Rambam, however, wrote (Hilchos Teshuvah 10:3)

What is the proper love of Hashem? It is that a person should love Hashem with an extraordinarily great, strong love, so that his soul is connected to Him through love, to the point that he is preoccupied with Him at all times…

Hardly a second-place finish.

Is ethical development really the summa bonum of Yiddishkeit? When the Khazar king argues something similar to thechaver (pointing to the same lines from the prophet that Hartman does, expressing Hashem’s preference for proper character over a surfeit of Temple offerings), the latter explains that Judaism has two chief goals. The first, earlier goal that must be achieved is the creation of the ethical individual. Having attained that goal, the Jew is then positioned to achieve the next goal: becoming more G-d-like, through the performance of myriad mitzvos.

For good measure, we’ll throw in the Ibn Ezra to Tehillim 84:6, “Praiseworthy …[are] those with paths in their hearts,” who explains that those paths focus on a single goal – getting close to Hashem.

Hartman’s new/old religion will never produce the kind of connection to Hashem evinced by the Klausinberger Rebbe, zt”l:

When we reached the extermination camps…we stood there, naked and with nothing, without clothing and without coverings for our heads, and with the wicked ones beating incessantly with the batons in their hands; the situation was terrible. I turned to those standing around me and I shouted, “Fellow Jews – know that the holy God is waiting for us there, inside the camp…and let us not forget that God is with us.” Throughout that entire year I worked on this – strengthening myself and not forgetting that God was with us, and that the entire world is filled with His glory – even in Auschwitz and Dachau, and that no place is devoid of Him…( Shefa Chayim, Chanukah)

Hartman’s error is more serious because in other regards he is so…right! The goals (and achievements) of the Shalom Hartman Institute are, in other regards, spot in. It has had success in showing all sorts of Israelis the need to keep Judaism within the Jewish State, and the interconnection (and interdependence) of democracy and Judaism. It has made a case for a common platform of belief that all parts of the Israeli spectrum can agree upon. It has introduced respect for Judaism to groups of Christian and Muslim visitors. Regrettably, Hartman fails to realize how the views he sets forth in this book will set back the progress of his other, noble goals. They will turn off many of those he is trying to bring into the conversation.

Hartman thinks big:

We’re going to “buy” a day a week with top students for two years — 45 hours a month for two years. Top students in law, business, sciences, arts, be they Orthodox, secular, Haredi, right-wing, left-wing, Jew, non-Jew. …The curriculum is: what is a Jewish democracy, what is a modern Judaism, what is religious pluralism, what ought to be the relationship between Israel and world Jewry? How do we develop the ideas that will sustain this tradition for the next generation?

We had a group of Haredim come to us and asking…How do I remain a faithful Haredi and be a part of modern Israel? A person committed to halacha and a Haredi way of life, and still live in the world.

Hartman has just made a great case for the opposite, for demonstrating just how stunted and twisted one’s Yiddishkeit can become. I suspect that it will not just be haredim who greet his remix of Judaism with revulsion.

This is a shame, because his vision for the Israeli future is in large part positive and achievable. But it may take the participation of those who are not ready, chas v’shalom, to turn G-d into an also-ran, and to ride roughshod over the Jewish neshamah’s yearning for devekus. It is upon us to demonstrate how and way fealty to halachah and halachic detail can and should enhance – not hinder – the ethical imperative. It is upon us to show that without yir’as shomayim, involvement in the ethical too often becomes self-serving or recreational, but not serious business. And it is upon us to show our fellow Jews that the sweetness of closeness to Hashem yields more smiles than frowns, on our brows, and on those who observe us.

____________
Some context as to how Orthodox Donniel Hartman is:
____

Orthodox Leaders to Join Conservative, Reform Worshippers at Western Wall Protest
An egalitarian prayer service is scheduled to protest the government’s capitulation to ultra-Orthodox demands to back out of an agreement to build a prayer space for non-Orthodox movements.

Ultra-Orthodox protesters seek to disrupt egalitarian prayers held by Reform and Conservative worshipers at the Western Wall on June 16, 2016.Emil Salman

Judy Maltz Jul 03, 2016 7:00 PM

Ultra-Orthodox protest at Reform, Conservative egalitarian Western Wall prayers
Mixed messages at the Western Wall: What’s happening with the Kotel compromise?

Orthodox representatives of a prominent institute of Jewish education will join Reform and Conservative Jews in a special egalitarian prayer service at the Western Wall on Monday afternoon.

It will be the first of two prayers services scheduled to be held at the Jewish holy site this week, in protest at the government’s apparent capitulation to ultra-Orthodox demands that it back out of an agreement to build a special prayer space for the non-Orthodox movements at the Western Wall.

Joining Reform and Conservative Jews at Monday’s afternoon Mincha service will be Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president of the Jerusalem-based Shalom Hartman Institute, and Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. The two Orthodox leaders decided to join the egalitarian service as a sign of support for the non-Orthodox movements in their ongoing struggle to gain recognition from the Israeli government.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, who is in Israel this week, will also be attending the service, which will be held in the upper Western Wall platform, in clear sight of the gender-segregated prayer areas. So, too, will Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of Women of the Wall, even though the feminist prayer group will not be hosting the event. Two weeks ago, the Reform and Conservative movement held a similar service at the upper plaza, which was disrupted by ultra-Orthodox protesters. The area is usually designated for pedestrians and sightseers.
Monday’s prayer service will be held at 16:00.

On Thursday, following the monthly Women of the Wall morning Shaharit service in the women’s section, the Conservative and Reform movements will hold their own egalitarian prayer service in the upper plaza at 8:30.

Reform and Conservative leaders have at this point all but given up hope that the government will follow through with its commitment to built a special prayer space for them at the southern expanse of the Western Wall near the archaeological excavations known as Robinson’s Arch. The plan was approved by a majority vote in the cabinet in January.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with ultra-Orthodox leaders who threatened to leave his coalition government if the plan was executed. The ultra-Orthodox parties oppose the plan because it provides formal recognition to the non-Orthodox movements.

The Reform and Conservative movements have threatened that if the government reneges on its commitment, they will appeal the Supreme Court and demand that existing prayer areas adjacent to the Western Wall be redivided into three equal sections: one for men, one for women, and one for mixed-prayer services.