A Jewish worshipper prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Administrator of the Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz called on the haredi political parties to pass legislation banning non-Orthodox and pluralist prayer at the Western Wall on Monday, and called for them to end “the desecration of the holy” at the site.
In a letter to the heads of the haredi parties, ministers Yaakov Litzman and Aryeh Deri, as well as senior United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni, Rabinowitz spoke out against what he described as the “ongoing provocations” of the Women of the Wall organization.
“Again and again the Women of the Wall have taken increasingly severe steps out of a desire to provoke, cause arguments and harm the sensitivities of worshipers and the holiness of the site,” said Rabinowitz.
Reform Jews pray at new Western Wall egalitarian section
He has been criticized, along with other haredi politicians and public figures, for agreeing to the plan in January to create a large pluralist prayer section at the southern end of the Western Wall.
The rabbi did not, however, call for the agreement to be revoked, but rather to legislate to change the legal situation at the Western Wall created by a groundbreaking ruling in 2013 by the Jerusalem District Court that upheld the claim of WOW to be able to pray with prayer shawls and tefillin at the Western Wall.
Since them, the organization’s worshipers have been able to pray as they wish, although without a Torah scroll, at the site.
Regardless of Rabinowitz’s letter, the plan to create a pluralist prayer space includes an agreement that the central Western Wall plaza will be reserved for Orthodox prayer alone, making the rabbi’s request somewhat obsolete.
It is likely therefore that the rabbi’s letter is intended as a way of distancing himself from the plan, which he reluctantly agreed to during indirect negotiations, via then cabinet secretary Avihai Mandelblit, with WOW.
Although Litzman, Deri and Gafni voted against the plan in the government vote on it in January, they did not demand that it be rejected at the time.
Since then, however, they have come under severe pressure to act against it, and the deal threatens to lead to a full-blown coalition crisis, since both Deri and UTJ have threatened that they may topple the government if the plan is not revoked.