MERCAZ - CFMJ KOTEL STATEMENT

Rarely are we speechless with decisions made by Israel,
but as the news of cancellation of the Kotel compromise emerged, we were. As a Canadian Jewish community with deep love of Israel we recognize the importance of diversity within our community. We will continue to share news as we receive it, and unified steps going forward.

For three years, multiple voices from across the religious spectrum negotiated to create One Kotel for One People, one place with multiple sections symbolizing our unity while recognizing our diversity.

Unfortunately, on Rosh Hodesh Tammuz, a period leading to our remembrance of the destruction of the First and Second Temple, PM Netanyahu and Israel's cabinet chose instead a path of division. The compromise is no longer. The reaction from around the Jewish world, including within Israel was outrage against what is being seen as religious coercion. This idea was also expressed by MK Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beitanu) who stated this was "not a religious matter, but the opposite - religious coercion." MK Liberman described the Orthodox parties as trying to "transform Israel from a Zionist state to an [Orthodox] halakhic state."

The Talmud (Eruvin 13b) teaches us that once, in an ongoing argument, a voice came out of Heaven saying, "[Both] these and these are the words of the living God. However, the halakhah is according to Beit Hillel." Since both are God's words, why was the halakhah according to Beit Hillel? We're taught that it is because Beit Hillel was agreeable and tolerant. They would teach both their own statements and those of Beit Shammai. Further, they would teach Beit Shammai first. With such a statement basic to our understanding of halakhah, how is it that those among us who seek only one voice take precedence over those who seek to hear the many voices of Israel.

The Netanyahu government's decision came during Jewish Agency Board of Governors meetings this week. JAFI Chair Natan Sharansky headed the committee that negotiated the compromise. In a break with history, JAFI issued a direct challenge to the government calling for the government to rescind this decision. Chairman Sharansky also issued a statement expressing "deep disappointment" in the decision and continuing commitment to building one wall for one people.

Rabbi Jennifer Gorman, Executive Director
Ron Hoffman, President Canadian Foundation for Masorti Judaism
David Sefton, President, MERCAZ-Canada
Stan Greenspan, VP, MERCAZ-Canada

June 26, 2017