In a move that may further ignite tensions between Israel and Diaspora Jewry, the Reform and Conservative movements say they no longer agree with having an upgraded platform for egalitarian prayer just south of the Western Wall Plaza. They insist on getting a designated section in the main prayer area.

The groups have recently petitioned the High Court of Justice in the wake of the Israeli government’s June decision to suspend a compromise that would have greatly expanded the small platform they currently use and given them direct control over its administration.

In a 27-page brief expected to be filed soon with the court, representatives of Reform and Conservative groups, as well as Women of the Wall, said they no longer support the compromise. Instead, they now ask the court to re-divide the main plaza and grant them a special section, as well as to give them representation at the Western Wall Heritage Foundation that administers the site.

The groups argued that in the wake of the government’s decision to backtrack on the prayer compromise last June, “it is incumbent that we go back to the basic ideas of equality, and the government should now act accordingly by respecting the petitioners’ right to pray according to their customs in the holiest place for the Jewish people, the Western Wall.”

The petitioners further state that according to Israeli law, the Western Wall site does not extend to the southern area where the current platform exists, near Robinson’s Arch. They claim that Israelis do not consider Robinson’s Arch to be part of the site, “and thus the platform is physically detached from the official site.”

In June, American Judaism’s Reform and Conservative movements, as well as other Jewish organizations, were angered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to cancel the construction of a new egalitarian prayer pavilion at the Western Wall.

Earlier this month, the Chief Rabbinate filed a 166-page brief with the High Court of Justice arguing that the court had no jurisdiction over the Western Wall when it comes to worship practices there.

But the non-Orthodox groups dismissed this claim in their brief, citing various court rulings showing that the courts do have the authority to rule on religious matters. The non-Orthodox groups’ demand for representation in the Western Wall Heritage Foundation is particularly sensitive, since this is what led the Orthodox parties to drop their support for the compromise in the first place, saying it was tantamount to official recognition of non-Orthodox streams. JN

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