Archeological council slams mixed-prayer area at Western Wall
The government's decision last January to expand the prayer area to include Conservative, Reform and mixed-gender prayer has raised the ire of archeologists who warn of great damage to a Jewish and world heritage site of primary importance.
Israel’s Archeological Council announced, in a letter that it sent on Monday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that it greatly opposes what it called "the major damage to the archeological park at the foot of the Western Wall", the place where the government decided last January to establish an expanded prayer area for Conservative, Reform and mixed-gender worship.
“Recently a prayer and events area consisting of an additional 500 square meters has been established, as one can see when visiting the site; these stages cause great damage to the site's appearance, in the site’s visiting path and the ability to explain the site to visitors - they should be removed as soon as possible," they determined. "The current plans to add and multiply the amount of prayer stages will only cause more damage to the site."
The harsh message followed a hearing that was held on the subject two weeks ago, and the hearing’s head, Prof. Roni Reich, explained that "this is a Jewish and world heritage site of primary importance. Preservation of the ruins is a prime archeological, public, educational and cultural duty."
The Archaeological Council explained that "the archaeological park at the southern tip of the Western Wall now extends over less than 60 meters of the total length of the Western Wall. Immediately after the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, the area south of the Mughrabi Gate, known as Robinson’s Arch, was designated for uncovering and displaying the ruins of Jerusalem's past. This was done to distinguish it from the prayer area at the Western Wall. For decades Prof. Benjamin Mazar and others excavated here, and found very well preserved impressive artifacts from the Second Temple period."
Professor Mazar explainsed that "the highlight here is the entirely preserved cobblestone street along the Western Wall, flanked by shops that served the pilgrims to the Temple Mount. On the street and the shops a landslide of huge blocks of the Wall that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD were revealed."
“This is the only place you can see and can touch the remains of the destruction that befell the people of Israel, which is commemorated with the yearly fast on Tisha B'Av. The remains of this landslide have immense educational and historical value. "