The Western Wall is meant to be a place of worship for all. However, it appears that Zionist overtones are not well-received there. Pages with the prayer for the State of Israel on them and a special prayer for the welfare of IDF soldiers were found ripped out of prayer books at the site.
The concerning phenomenon was discovered in Rinat Yisrael prayer books, which contain prayers written after the establishment of the State of Israel: a prayer for Independence Day, a prayer for Jerusalem Day, a prayer for the State of Israel, and a prayer for IDF soldiers. Pages containing these prayers were ripped out of the Rinat Yisrael prayer books.
Except for Rinat Yisrael, most of the Kotel prayer books do not contain the said prayers, and the haredi community society views Rinat Yisrael as a "Zionist prayer book" because of them.
A Yedioth Ahronoth investigation of the Kotel prayer books found that many of them were missing the 10 or so pages containing the prayers connected to the State of Israel. In other prayer books, pages containing the prayer for the State of Israel, which is recited during Shabbat services, was torn and ruined.
One estimate is that the desecration was carried out by anti-Zionist haredi perpetrators who view the establishment of the State of Israel and the liberation of Jerusalem as negative.
"I estimate that the prayer book desecrators are extremist haredim who cannot tolerate a prayer book that has references to Zionism or the State of Israel," said Knesset Member Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi). "I expect the Kotel ushers, who know how to identify easily any digression from the modesty codes at the Western Wall pavilion, will know how to address the prayer book desecrators with the same effectiveness."
'Proper conduct necessary'The prayer book issue is likely to be an additional point of friction between the haredi community and the religious and secular communities. Recent claims have been made that the Western Wall is increasingly being overrun by extremist haredi elements.
Orbach said, "The Kotel, beyond being a holy site and a place of worship, is a symbol of Jewish heritage that touches all of the Jewish public. Creating a stringent haredi atmosphere at the Kotel will push away anyone who isn't haredi. The gravity of the site necessitates proper conduct both from secular people and from haredim."
The Western Wall management denies that there has been any change whatsoever in the status quo. Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz vehemently condemned the desecration of the prayer books.
"The Rinat Yisrael prayer book is accepted openly at the Western Wall. There are many prayer books of this type. I strongly condemn whoever is behind this act. There are prayer services held at the Western Wall on Independence Day and Jerusalem Day. The Kotel belongs to all of us, both to those who join in Independence Day prayers and those who don't.
"Ripping pages from a prayer book is an act worthy of all condemnations, and I hope it is not repeated. We intend to turn to the police so that together we can examine how to prevent the repetition of such acts," said Rabbi Rabinowitz.
A source in the Eda Haharedit claimed that the prayer book desecration was carried out by someone from "the national religious population, who stopped believing in the State because of the disengagement."