A large stone above the egalitarian section of the Western Wall at the Robinson’s Arch site fell out early Monday, which could close the section of the prayer platform abutting the stones of the Western Wall for an extended period of time.
The incident occurred the morning after the fast of Tisha Be’av, one of the most crowded days of the year at the Kotel.
Director of the Antiquities Authority Israel Hasson said the possible extended closure is dependent on whether or not a pending survey of the area finds that more stones above the site could be in danger of falling.
The Jerusalem Engineer’s office has now closed the prayer platform next to the wall, and the Antiquities Authority will conduct a survey of the stones above the site, which Hasson said could take up to two weeks.
If it is found that other stones are in danger of falling due to possible dampness within the wall then it would take an extended period of time to secure each stone, Hasson said, due to engineering concerns and problems of Jewish law pertaining to construction work on the stones of the holy site.
Hasson was part of a delegation inspecting the site on Monday afternoon, which included Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, who has authority over the Antiquities Authority, along with Chief Rabbi David Lau and Administrator of the Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz.
The assembled officials agreed that the large stone that fell will be removed from the platform where it fell and put under protection in Rabinowitz’s offices until the authority can determine if it is possible to reinsert it.
“I gave instructions to work quickly, as far as is possible, in order to ensure a safe prayer experience for worshipers who come to this holy place,” said Regev. “From a safety perspective, we will do everything required in order to prevent a repeat of these incidents in the future.”
The egalitarian section, known as the “Ezrat Yisrael” prayer platform, has existed as a place for progressive Jewish prayer since 2000, but was substantially upgraded in 2013 by Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett.
The stone fell meters away from a woman who was praying, and security cameras show her fleeing the site in panic.
Roey Shabtay, the Conservative Movement’s spokesman, tweeted Monday morning that a “miracle at Ezrat Yisrael” occurred. “Had it happened yesterday when there were many people praying, there could have been a disaster.”
Rabinowitz referred to the event as “exceptional and rare,” one that has not happened in decades and which is beyond his understanding.
“The fact that such a powerful event took place after the fast of Tisha Be’av, in which we mourned the destruction of our temple, raises questions that the human soul is too small to contain and that demand cheshbon nefesh [accounting of the soul].”
“I thank the Almighty for preventing a major disaster,” he said.
MK Yehudah Glick called it a “very frightening incident,” and said he does not understand “what God means [to convey].”
The Knesset recently approved a move to renovate the egalitarian section, despite opposition from a number of politicians, most prominently Regev.
In response to the incident, Jerusalem deputy mayor and member of the Jerusalem Municipal Council for Bayit Yehudi Dov Kalmanovitz
implied that the falling stone should make the Reform movement change its ways.
“We cannot explain or derive meaning from natural phenomenons as signs from Heaven, because the ways of the Creator are hidden from us,” said Kalmanovitz, who then went on to do just that.
He said that the incident coming so close to Tisha Be’av, which commemorates the destruction of the Temples, and the place where it fell – the egalitarian prayer section for progressive Jewish prayer – should set of red lights.
“I suggest to the leaders of the Reform communities and the instigators of the dispute, the Women of the Wall, to inspect themselves and not the Western Wall,” said Kalmanovitz. “They should turn to the true teachers of Jewish law and fix the schism they have caused in the nation.”
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>