Reform Movement: Remove gender barrier at Kotel entrance

Segregation has still extended into the public domain where segregation is illegal,” said director of Israel Religious Action Center.

gender separation 311 (photo credit: Jeremy Sharon)
gender separation 311
(photo credit: Jeremy Sharon)
The Reform Movement in Israel is demanding that barriers separating men and women at the main entrance to the Western Wall plaza be removed.
The group sent letters to the Jerusalem District Police Commander Nissan Shaham and the Rabbi of the Kotel Shmuel Rabinovitch demanding that the partitions at the main entrance by the Dung Gate be removed. The letter also insists that the stewards employed by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation to enforce the separate lines be removed.
The Jerusalem Post has seen footage showing stewards with loudspeakers working by the bus stops at the exit of the Western Wall plaza by the Dung Gate, instructing men to get on the buses at the front door and women to enter via the rear door.
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation said in a statement to the Post that there were three other entrances to the plaza which were not separated along gender lines, and that the current set-up has been in place for a number of years.
“Because of security requirements for comprehensive checks at the entrance to the Western Wall plaza, the lines of visitors at the entrance in question become extremely long during the holiday and the intermediary days, and so the separation barriers were extended,” read the statement.
“Anyone who wants to enter without separation can do so from the three other entrances.”
The foundation said in the statement that neither it nor Rabinovitch were involved in the activities regarding separation of men and women on the buses.
“The segregation has still extended into the public domain where segregation is illegal,” said Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the advocacy and lobbying arm of the Reform movement.
“These partitions will only continue to extend into the public domain, as they have done in certain instances in banks, post offices and streets, unless it is tackled head on.
“There is also a direct link between the hiding of women in the public sphere and the various restrictions currently being placed on women in public life, such as the recent incidents regarding women singing in the army,” Hoffman argued.
A number of the visitors passing along the lines were unfazed by the separation.
“I’m secular but this is a holy place and I respect that,” said one woman. “In the religious world, men and women are separated so it doesn’t bother me to go along with that.”
In the Western Wall Heritage Foundation’s statement, Rabinovitch said that everyone was equal before the Western Wall but that it was not the place for declarations and speeches.
“The Western Wall plaza is where we as individuals connect with our people and our heritage… I implore you, let the Kotel be as it is, a place of deep intimacy and traditional prayer as has been the custom for many generations.”
Hoffman stated however that the foundation is a “haredi-dominated organization with no representation for women, alternative Jewish groups other than the Orthodox, or for the city municipality.”
“The foundation abuses its authority and dictates life choices for the rest of us,” she said.
“The Kotel belongs to all Jews, it shouldn’t be the haredi Kotel, but should be run by all of us, not just the few.”