Rabbis Kanievsky and Edelstein denounce Western Wall agreement

They called on the community “to do everything to prevent this disgrace to the holy place” and to intensify their prayer and Torah study to prevent “this desecration of God’s name.”

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the most senior ultra-Orthodox rabbis in the country on Tisha Be'Av. (photo credit: SHUKI LERRER)
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the most senior ultra-Orthodox rabbis in the country on Tisha Be'Av.
(photo credit: SHUKI LERRER)

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky and Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, two of the most senior rabbis in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community, have jointly denounced the stated intention of senior government ministers to implement the Western Wall agreement.

The two rabbis issued their message in a public notice published in the Yated Ne’eman haredi daily newspaper on Tuesday, in which they also decried government legislation on kashrut and proposed reforms to the conversion system.

“Regarding the rumors to shut down and destroy everything holy to the Jewish people, after they have toiled to destroy the walls of kashrut and conversion that were built with great work to save as far as possible, they are not satisfied and want to harm the remnant of the Temple, the Western Wall from which the divine presence has never left,” wrote Kanievsky, 93, and Edelstein, 98.

The rabbis said their notice was designed to “strongly protest the desecration of the holiness of the Western Wall through granting a place and recognition for the destroyers of religion who want to uproot everything and desecrate the name of heaven, in reference to non-Orthodox Jewish denominations.

They then called on the community “to do everything to prevent this disgrace to the holy place,” and to intensify their prayer and Torah study to prevent “this desecration of God’s name.”

Jewish worshipers celebrate Jerusalem Day at the Western Wall in 2019.  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Jewish worshipers celebrate Jerusalem Day at the Western Wall in 2019. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The Western Wall agreement passed by cabinet resolution in 2016, but was indefinitely suspended by the same government in 2017.

It would have seen the current prayer platform for non-Orthodox prayers at the Robinson Arch area at the southern end of the Western Wall designated in law as a prayer space for non-Orthodox worship, and given representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements a place on the site’s governing committee.

Earlier this month, Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli all called for the agreement to be implemented in the coming months.

Tensions have been building around the issue. A severe standoff at the Western Wall between the Women of the Wall group, haredi protesters, Labor MK and Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv and haredi MKs was only averted after President Isaac Herzog intervened.

The tensions are building once again over Women of the Wall’s upcoming prayer service at the site on Sunday, when ill-tempered protests are again a possibility.