Kotel (Western Wall) security cameras 311.
(photo credit: Daniel Cohen)
Senior haredi Ashkenazi adjudicator Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv recently
prohibited visiting the Western Wall on Shabbat due to halachic problems with
the security cameras there. However, one of the leading experts on Halacha and
technology is calling the demand part of the “endless pursuit of stringencies in
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An announcement in last weekend’s Yated Ne’eman
newspaper cited sources close to Elyashiv as prohibiting visits to the Western
Wall on Shabbat in the rabbi’s name.
“Recent publications claim that
while the Mabat-2000 program is active, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv permits
visiting the Western Wall on Shabbat,” the paper said. “It is hereby announced
that there is currently insufficient supervision to ensure that the program is
indeed active, and so long as matter is not resolved, it is Rabbi Elyashiv’s
opinion that one should not go to the Western Wall on Shabbat.”
Wall and Holy Sites Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz issued a statement regarding the
program, which involves security cameras that are not motion-sensitive and do
not focus on objects, enabling passage through the Old City on Shabbat and
“In Rabbi Elyashiv’s opinion, there is a problem in the
supervision of the program used on Shabbat, and together with the police we are
working to fix the issue,” he said.
The Jerusalem Police spokesman said
they were open to suggestions.
But Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, head of the
Tzomet Institute, said Thursday that “whoever wants to prohibit the Western Wall
cameras will have to order religious people to stay away from yeshivas, hotels,
banquet halls and public areas, all of which use online security
Rozen, whose institute is one of the leading establishments in
developing solutions for the use of modern technologies in accordance with
Shabbat observance, was involved in the consultations for the original use of
the cameras around the Western Wall.
“There are two problematic aspects
to being filmed on Shabbat. The first is the digital changes your image creates
on the screen, but the more serious one is having the filmed materials saved,”
Since the images are deleted within a limited period after
they are recorded, the major halachic obstacle is resolved, enabling the cameras
to be used on Shabbat.
“The permit for using such online cameras was
given even to those that temporarily save the information recorded in case a
crime was committed.
Security cameras are in use all over the country,
including in yeshivas and hotels, not to mention sensitive places such as
settlements, Jerusalem and the Western Wall,” he continued.
these that broadcast online were permitted by all the leading adjudicators,
including people representing Rabbi Elyashiv,” Rozen said. “Articles about that
were also published in the [Tzomet Institute’s annual] Techumin journal,
including by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz and others from the haredi
Apparently, Elyashiv’s people wanted the additional measure of
having the materials recorded on Shabbat erased in a shorter period, and the
utilization of that specific program is probably what is not being supervised,
“There is an endless pursuit of stringencies in Elyashiv’s
court,” Rozen charged. “This is a demand that exists nowhere else. Its
implications are not just for the Kotel, but for half the country.”