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On Rosh Chodesh, a rabbi went to the Western Wall …

And used his immunity as a Knesset member to smuggle a Torah scroll into a Reform gathering as a favor and an act of identification.

Knesset member Gilad Kariv at a Labor Party meeting in Jerusalem on April 6, 2021. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Knesset member Gilad Kariv at a Labor Party meeting in Jerusalem on April 6, 2021. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Yisrael Medad
Yisrael Medad is a researcher, analyst and opinion commentator on political, cultural and media issues.

Gilad Kariv is an ordained Reform rabbi who formerly served as executive director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), and of late, is a member of the Knesset for the Labor Party.

“I’m ready to be more engaged in my other world of social impact, meaning the political work,” Kariv told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency during his campaign in an earlier round of elections a year-and-a-half ago. “For us, the fact that equality isn’t a legislated constitutional value in Israel, that’s a disgrace. It’s a Jewish disgrace, not only a democratic disgrace.”

He has declared his intention of “breaking the [haredi] monopoly and opening new alternatives for a relevant and welcoming Israeli Judaism. We’re sounding a Jewish, egalitarian, democratic voice that strives for social justice, loves humanity and strives for peace.”

Kariv views himself a being a “direct, clear, unprecedented representation for Reform Judaism” in the Knesset.

Recently, Kariv accused the KKL-JNF leadership of carrying out “a dangerous operation” that would have security and diplomatic ramifications. The “operation”? To purchase land in Judea and Samaria.

From 1901 when KKL-JNF was founded until 1917, land was purchased under the laws of the Ottoman Empire and then, until 1948, under the regulations of the British Mandate. In previous centuries, from Abraham purchasing the Cave in Hebron’s Machpelah Valley, Joseph’s gravesite being bought in Shechem by Jacob from the sons of Hamor, and David acquiring from Aravna the threshing-floor upon which the Temple would be built, Jews have bought land in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

Why would Kariv consider such a traditional Jewish act “dangerous”? Why would he wish to reform that policy? Arabs own property in Israel. Cannot Jews own property in Judea and Samaria?

More recently, Kariv used his immunity to smuggle a sefer Torah into the Reform gathering at the Western Wall this week as a favor and an act of identification with the Women of the Wall (a group that has split, by the way, with now a rival Original Women of the Wall who pray at the women’s section of the Kotel). He did this following the attorney general’s office issuing a legal opinion of April 12 that a Knesset member is able to take a Torah scroll into the Western Wall plaza and not be searched or have it confiscated due to his or her parliamentary immunity, although the opinion noted that the scroll could not be passed to anyone else at the site.

Following the morning prayer on Tuesday, United Torah Judaism faction chairman, Knesset member Rabbi Moshe Gafni, attacked, writing: “Gilad Kariv has been a well-known troublemaker since time immemorial and is now lowering the Knesset to the lowest depths.” The Shas faction also issued a statement of condemnation: “Kariv and his group have nothing to do with the Kosel. They do not believe in the Beis HaMikdash, but only want to incite provocation and separation among the people.”

Avishai Greenzweig, legal correspondent for the Globes daily, mulling over the importance for Kariv of praying at the Western Wall, asked Kariv via Twitter if he hopes for a rebuilt Temple on the Temple Mount. Kariv’s answer was: “Reform Judaism does not look forward to the construction of a Temple, but rather seeks to repair the world through God’s Kingdom,” and that “the State of Israel be a light unto the nations, an exceptional society and that Jerusalem be a city of justice.”

In other words, Kariv was extending the Reform Judaism method of altering traditional Jewish practices and symbols to a holy site centuries old. This was evident ever since the Ezrat Yisrael separate but egalitarian prayer area—identified more with the Conservative/Masorti movement—had been set up. Kariv is supporting the agenda of the Women of the Wall, whose “central mission is to attain social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah, collectively and aloud, at the Western Wall.” Note that the thrust is not simply to achieve the practical right to pray in a women’s minyan but to achieve “recognition.”

It is not only the Western Wall that is the location, but more exactly, the Western Wall Plaza. It is not solely the prayer, but the right to be seen and heard at the Plaza. Put another way, they are not praying to God as much as they are asking the Israeli and Jewish Diaspora public to hear them and to acknowledge the validity of their own religious modes. After all, thousands of women pray and recite Psalms daily at the Western Wall in the women’s section of the plaza. But Kariv and the Reform women want more. They want a “legal” right. They seek a standing. They use the wall as their arena for advancing Reform Judaism.

And, as Kariv admitted to Greenzweig, they are not willing to accept that prayer at the wall has anything to do with its history and its future in connection with the two Jewish Temples just on the other side. The parallel struggle of Temple Mount activists is rejected as being “political,” as Meretz Knesset member Tamar Zandberg explained back in 2013 at a Deliberation of the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee on the issue of prayer services and the jurisdiction of the Temple Mount the day after she, Stav Shaffir and Michal Rozin used their parliamentary immunity to wear prayer shawls at the Western Wall:

“every man and woman, from every religion, has a right to pray at the sites that are holy to him. Zandberg claimed that this is indeed a question of jurisdiction … a national question, regarding the occupation. Therefore, Jews should only be allowed to pray in the holy places after the occupation is over, Jerusalem has been separated, and the holy places have been apportioned to each religion, accordingly.”

In short, those “other Jews” who seek religious liberty at the Temple Mount are not equal to the Reform Jews. Their Judaism is to be rejected and the law denied to them.

It seems to be clear that Kariv’s Reform Judaism approach is no less political, as well as provocative and aggressive, as haredi Judaism and the National Religious camp that he opposes. There is no real moral difference. It’s just another form of replacement theology.

Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and political commentator.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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