14 months and still no egalitarian access to Western Wall stones

‘Officials’ in Prime Minister’s Office say loose stones found above egalitarian section

Selichot at the Western Wall (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Selichot at the Western Wall
Some 14 months after a large stone fell out of the Western Wall above the egalitarian prayer section at its southern end near Robinson’s Arch barely missing a woman at prayer and damaging the structure, the platform touching the wall itself at the site still remains closed.
According to officials in the Prime Minister’s Office, a safety review of the stones has been completed and “several dozen” loose stones discovered, requiring work to secure them for the safety of worshipers.
Dr. Yizhar Hess, director of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel, expressed extreme skepticism however that the review has been completed, noting that scaffolding erected against approximately one third of the length of the prayer section for the review has not moved since it was first put there.
The prayer platform is the only physical access the egalitarian section has to the stones of the Western Wall themselves, with the main prayer area of the section set several meters back from the wall.
When the stone originally fell, the Jerusalem Municipality’s engineering office closed the prayer platform next to the wall, and the Israel Antiquities Authority said it would conduct a survey of the stones to determine whether the area is safe or if more stones are in danger of falling.
Authority director Yisrael Hasson said at the time that the survey would take approximately two weeks.
Work on the review of the stones began in January, and scaffolding was erected against a section of the wall at the egalitarian section, but has not been moved or extended since it was first put up, according to Hess.
Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said on Sunday that the review of the stones has now been completed.
“Several dozen stones were found that are in need of strengthening so that they do not represent a danger. The work to stabilize the stones of the Western Wall is advancing all the time. At present, different solutions for the further stabilization of the southern side of the Western Wall are being evaluated, in order to guarantee the security of visitors alongside the preservation of the historic site,” said the officials in response to a request for comment by The Jerusalem Post.
Hess said that the claims that the review had been completed were hard to credit.
“The claims of the Prime Minister’s Office that the review of the stones has been completed is inconsistent with the reality on the ground, and is incommensurate with what we see with our own eyes,” he told the Post.
“It is nonsense. How is it possible to say that all the stones have been checked when the scaffolding that was built covers only part of the area, one third alone, of the site? How were the rest of the stones checked, by remote control? By telepathy?
“There is no doubt that someone is trying to obscure the fact that the work that was supposed to have finished within a few weeks is still continuing after nearly a year and a half.”
Some 100,000 Jews visit the egalitarian section every year to conduct bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies, and hold prayer services.