The Rabbi of the Kotel (Western Wall), Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, is hoping that this month’s prayer rally by the controversial Women of the Wall group will be met with silence.
Women of the Wall has held monthly prayer gatherings in the women’s section of the Kotel in recent months. The group’s prayers are conducted in a manner that is controversial according halakha (Jewish law), and which violates traditional norms at the holy site.
The group’s leader identifies with the Reform movement, which sees Jewish law as non-binding.
The foremost protesters against Women of the Wall’s prayers have been hareidi-religious women, who have gathered in their thousands during the group’s gatherings in a silent show of disapproval.
However, some protesters have turned violent, throwing objects at Women of the Wall members and screaming insults. The open conflict has been very bad for the Jewish people, Rabbi Rabinovich warned.
“The Kotel is not only the heart of the Jewish people, it is the face the Jewish people presents, both to itself and to the world,” he explained. “When Jews fight each other at the Western Wall - there is no greater desecration of G-d’s name than that.”
He called on those who are offended by Women of the Wall’s prayers to give the government time to find a solution that works for everybody.
“Wait for the committee to decide, so an arrangement can be found that will restore quiet and unity to the Western Wall,” he suggested.
“I don’t doubt that the committee’s recommendations will not fully satisfy either side,” he added. However, he said, “The Jewish people requires that the Kotel return to being a place that brings us together, not a place where conflict and hate are expressed, G-d forbid.”
Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party, previously attempted to resolve the conflict by opening a new prayer section next to the Kotel plaza in which members of the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements may pray as they see fit without disrupting or offending Orthodox worshippers.
Women of the Wall chairperson Anat Hoffman quickly rejected Bennett’s initiative.