Shas initiative seeks to keep reform prayers away from Western Wall
The ultra-orthodox party proposes a bill that would thwart the mixed prayer area by placing the site under the jurisdiction of the Chief Rabbinate; if aproved, a NIS 10,000 fine would be given to those engaging in male-female prayer or women wrapping themselves in the traditional talit or laying tefillin.
Ultra-orthodox party Shas has proposed a bill that would thwart the mixed prayer area for conservative and reform Jewish believers at Western Wall south of the existing prayer areas that has already been approved by the government. Shas's leader, Aryeh Deri, has already voiced his objections to the planned mixed prayer area.
The initiative aims to have the area declared as a sacred site under the jurisdiction of the Chief Rabbinate, which would have the ultra-orthodox establishment decide on the modes of prayer that would be deemed acceptable there.
The proposed bill prohibits "conducting a ceremony—including a religious ceremony—that does not coincide with local customs and is hurtful to the people praying at the site." It also includes a ban on mixed male-female prayer, women wrapping themselves in the traditional talit or laying tefillin. It sets a NIS 10,000 fine for those who would not abide by these rules.
Attorney Masorti traditional Judaism organization Executive-Director Yizhar Hess, who has been fighting for the establishment of a new area of prayer for non ultra-orthodox believers, attacked the new bill. "This is nothing less than madness. We never imagined that the current government, the most nationalist of our governments, would take part in such a post-Zionist act. This law would tell the vast majority of Jews in Israel and the world that they aren't Jews. We won't let this slide. I call on the prime minister to stop this madness before it's too late."
Head of the Reform Movement Rabbi Gilad Kariv responded by saying, "The bill is a continuation of a campaign led by Haredi politicians that is looking to incite against and attack reform Judaism. It's horrifying to see that instead of admonishing the death threats received by heads of the reform movement just a few days ago, the heads of Shas keep on stirring up argument and hate. We expect the prime minister to be true to his word given to world Jewry and act to implement the government regarding the Kotel."