Rabbi Rick Jacobs, who serves as the President of Reform Judaism, took to the pages of the Jerusalem Post on December 23, 2021 to demand prayer space for non-Orthodox Jews on the Jewish Temple Mount. Long frustrated by the delay in implementing an egalitarian space at the Kotel, the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount, Jacobs thought it was time to move on.
“We created a painful but fair compromise that would make the Kotel a place for all Jewish people, from the most liberal to the most orthodox,” but the Israeli government has yet to institute the agreed upon solution, as “Netanyahu capitulated to pressure from the ultra-Orthodox parties” wrote Jacobs. “Making space at the Wall for pluralistic Jewish prayer will proclaim that there is more than one authentic way to live a Jewish life of meaning and purpose,” but alas, Jacobs does not see that happening.
Jacobs noted that the current Israeli government is unlikely to push forward on implementing the compromise solution so he has decided to move on – to the Temple Mount itself.
Jacobs noted that the Orthodox Jews truly revere the Kotel and he is fine letting them have it. He is going up top, with specific rights for non-Orthodox Jews. He added “Orthodox will have sole control over the prayer space that they cherish. For the first time, the non-Orthodox will have a dignified space where we can pray,” on the Al Aqsa Compound. He called this divide a “Solomonic solution, teaching all Jews the power of compromise and unity, and fulfilling Isaiah’s bold prophecy.“
When questioned whether he thought the Islamic Waqf would have an issue with non-Orthodox prayer on what Muslims revere as the Al Aqsa Compound, he was nonplussed. “The Waqf doesn’t want ‘settlers’ praying on the Temple Mount but the non-Orthodox worshippers will be tourists from abroad as there are virtually no non-Orthodox Israelis who visit the site.“
When pressed further about the Reform movement’s views on ‘settlements’ including the Old City of Jerusalem, Jacobs said that Reform Judaism “has a long-standing policy of opposition to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank,” and also opposes “eviction/displacement of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, [and] elsewhere in East Jerusalem,” but he doesn’t think there is hypocrisy in advocating for non-Orthodox Jewish prayer on the the Temple Mount.
“Let me be clear, the current Israeli government does not believe in religious freedom and equality for non-Orthodox Jews,” so it’s time to bring our case before the Islamic Waqf. He added that “Judaism and Islam stem from the same foundational idea that we are the Children of Abraham, descendants of our common patriarchs and matriarchs,” and is sure that the Muslims will welcome non-Israeli, non-Orthodox Jewish extremists to pray alongside them on the Al Aqsa Compound.
“Inshallah,” he added. That will really be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy “For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all. (Isaiah 56:7)“