Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch
Photo: Haim Zach
Western Wall (archives)
Photo: Israel Bardugo

Rabbi Rabinovitch: Western Wall not becoming haredi

Wall's rabbi rejects reports that he has banned reception ceremonies for new immigrants at holy site for religious reasons. 'I would also forbid a haredi event with full separation. This is not a banquet hall,' he says

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch rejects claims that he forbade the Jewish Agency to hold a reception ceremony for new immigrants at the holy Jerusalem site for religious reasons.


Talking to Ynet on Monday, the rabbi clarified that "the policy in the past few years allows holding only prayer services and military ceremonies at the plaza, and any other event is not allowed even if it is held by haredim in full separation (between men and women)."


According to Rabinovitch, the holy site "is not a banquet hall", and therefore "clear rules" were set several years ago stating that only prayer events would be held at the site.


He said he "rejects two or three such requests a day," but stressed that he would agree to host military events like soldiers' swearing in ceremonies or memorial, as this has been a tradition for many years.


The rabbi said that about a year ago he approved reception ceremonies for new immigrants at the Western Wall after the Jewish Agency said they were all religious and that the event included a prayer. Since then, the JA has filed several similar requests, and in the latest incident, when he found out it was no longer a prayer event, the request was denied.


"This has nothing to do with religion or a world view," he insisted. "No one wants to pray with a speech by a minister, rabbi or public figure in the background. This disrupts the activity at the Wall."


Following the recent publications on the matter, Rabbi Rabinovitch accused elements in the JA of "misusing the Wall for political needs with all kinds of false claims."


He added, "I see no difference between them and the radical Muslims who claimed that Israel was burying under it and launched riots. Those are setting fire to the Temple Mount and these are setting fire to our internal home."


'Everyone feels connected to site'

The local rabbi stressed that the status-quo at the Western Wall was being maintained, and that in accordance with a High Court ruling, a joint prayer for men and women would be allowed at the nearby Robinson Arch.


He said that the hundreds of thousands of people who visited the Wall during the High Holidays show that everyone feels connected to the site. "It is run with gentle arrangements and great sensitivity to any worldview."


Despite his claims against elements in the Jewish Agency, Rabinovitch noted that he has been discussing the matter JA Chairman Natan Sharansky. He said he believed the sides would reach an agreement that the part related to prayer in each ceremony would be held at the Wall and the other parts would be held in a nearby place.


A JA source confirmed to Ynet that talks were being held with the Western Wall rabbi in order to find an alternative place for the ceremonies, after learning that "at the plaza itself it was quite uncomfortable."


The JA told Ynet in response, "The Agency has been holding reception ceremonies for new immigrants at the Western Wall for about a year now, in order to connect the experience of immigrating to Israel with the experience of visiting the most holy site to the Jewish people.


"The Jewish Agency plans to continue holding the ceremony near the Western Wall, with all members of the immigrants' families – women, men and children – experiencing the moving event together."


פרסום ראשון: 10.14.09, 16:11
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