The participants – rabbis and leaders of Conservative movements in the United States and Canada – met earlier with Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor and Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau, as well as with Knesset Members Yohanan Plesner and Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) and Isaac Herzog (Labor), with whom they discussed issues of state and religion.
After the meetings, they all gathered at the men's gallery in the Knesset synagogue for the afternoon prayer. Rabbi Jennifer Gorman, the executive director of the Canadian Foundation for Masorti Judaism, served as cantor.
Conservative prayer at Knesset
"It was a moving and inspiring prayer," said Dr. Alan Silverstein, president of the Masorti foundation in the US. "We were delighted to be able to pray at the beautiful synagogue of the Jewish state's legislative body.
"Every Shabbat, we pray at Conservative Judaism communities across the world for the State of Israel – and here we got the opportunity to engage in a mitzvah and pray at the Israeli Knesset's synagogue, one of the most important symbols of Jewish sovereignty."
Glorification of women
Surprisingly, the ultra-Orthodox parties were unfazed by the violation of the synagogue's status quo. MK Nissim Zeev (Shas) said that as far as he was concerned, it was a public prayer room everyone was entitled to use.
"Even if Muhammad asks to pray there, I'll say 'tfadal' ('go ahead' in Arabic)."
According to Zeev, if the group members had asked to hold an egalitarian quorum at the regular prayer time, it would have been considered a disturbance and provocation, but because they did it at a different time he had no problem with this "glorification of women".
"Thank God, Israel doesn't have many communities of this kind, which sow the rift among the people of Israel," he said. "But when they arrive, you can't prevent them from doing so in a public place like the Knesset.
"Had it been in a 'private' Orthodox synagogue, I wouldn't think twice about allowing someone to do such a thing – pray with a woman."
MK Israel Eichler (United Torah Judaism) said he was unmoved by the incident as well. "Unfortunately, I know where we live. There's nothing we can do about it."
The Conservative leaders' meetings with the ministers and MKs focused on religious radicalization in Israel and its influence on the Jewish state's image in the world in general, and in North America in particular.
"We all love Israel and support Israel," said Masorti Foundation Executive Director & CEO David Lissy, "but the State of Israel humiliates us time and again telling us that we are second class Jews, that are rabbis cannot conduct wedding ceremonies here and that our converts are not considered Jewish enough for the Jewish state.
"The discrimination against the non-Orthodox factions in Israel creates enormous damage to the State of Israel's image at the state of all Jews."