Jerusalem chief rabbi stages gender-separate service in egalitarian section at Kotel

"May God bring them to repent, these evil people," Amar says of Reform and Conservative Jews.

Former chief rabbi Shlomo Amar at Western Wall (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Former chief rabbi Shlomo Amar at Western Wall
Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Shlomo Amar and several dozen national-religious activists staged a prayer service at the Robinson’s Arch prayer platform at the Western Wall on Tuesday morning, to protest any potential deal to upgrade the site and formally recognize it as a place for pluralist prayer.
The activists brought a partition and erected it in the middle of the prayer platform to separate male and female worshipers who attended the service.
They were escorted by police, who instructed security guards at the site to make way for Amar’s prayer service, despite the fact that the area is designated for egalitarian prayer.
A Reform group that arrived had to wait briefly for Amar’s service to conclude and exit the site before they were able to begin prayer.
Since 2004, the prayer section at the southern end of the Western Wall has been used by the Masorti (Conservative) Movement and other groups for prayer services. The Masorti Movement administers all prayer-related concerns at the site, including providing prayer books and Torah scrolls.
In a cabinet decision in January, the government agreed to upgrade the site and formally recognize it for pluralist services, but the decision has been postponed following severe opposition from haredi leadership.
“There is no such thing as a Reform Western Wall,” Amar said, referring to the government decision.
“No one can annul the holiness of the Western Wall, not the government, not the courts.
It’s impossible. It’s sacred, it’s the Temple Mount. Not non-Jews, not the UN, no power, no one can annul holiness.”
Amar was videoed leaving the site by Rabbi Sandra Kochman, who is responsible for administering the site for the Masorti Movement.
“May God bring them to repent, these evil people,” Amar said as he walked past Kochman, in reference to progressive Jews.
Director of the Masorti Movement in Israel Yizhar Hess accused Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who voted against the cabinet decision in January, of being responsible for the prayer service, and said Amar was using the crisis over the issue to challenge the leadership of Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri.
“I ask the prime minister to call his ministers and coalition partners to order, as well as the chief rabbi of Jerusalem who receives his salary from the taxpayer,” said Hess.
“This is deliberate sabotage of Israel’s relationship with world Jewry and, moreover, it is sabotaging the claim that the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people.”