August 14, 1997
Another Melee Erupts as Women Pray with Men at WesternWall
The forcible eviction of the worshipers from Judaism's mostrevered site came as thousands gathered there to mark Tisha B'Av, afast day marking the traditional anniversary of the destruction of,first, Solomon's Temple and, then, Herod's Temple.
The men and women were worshiping together in aspecially-designated area at the entrance to the plaza, a couple ofhundred yards from the wall itself.
Monday's incident was the latest confrontation between OrthodoxJews and members of the other branches of Judaism, who have beenlocked in a divisive debate in the Knesset over the authority of theOrthodox rabbinic establishment in Israel.
"They're symbolically, and more than symbolically, driving us outof the gates of Jerusalem," said Rabbi Uri Regev, director of theReform movement's Israel Religious Action Center.
"Even in the former Soviet Union, Jews can pray in peace. To beexcluded from the most important Jewish place in the world gives ussome perspective on the issues. This isn't about freedom of worship;this is about where Israel is going."
Even as the police action occurred, a committee charged withstaving off a crisis over conversions, faces a deadline this week.
The committee, headed by Finance Minister Ya'acov Ne'eman, wasformed by the government to forge a path acceptable to the threemajor Jewish streams to avert the passage of controversial pendinglegislation.
Friday, Aug. 15, is the slated deadline for the committee'srecommendations, to be followed by the government coalition'sapproval by Sept. 5.
A recent unconfirmed report by the daily Ha'aretz said that thediscussions included a proposal by Ne'eman for the establishment of a"joint conversion school for all streams of Judaism." The conversionitself would be performed in an Orthodox rabbinical court accordingto halacha. Such a proposal, the newspaper said, could be applied toother rituals, including marriage.
At the same time, the report continued, the Reform andConservative synagogues would, for the first time, receive governmentfunding "similar to those of Orthodox synagogues." -- Compiled fromWire Services