Selichot at the Kotel
Selichot at the KotelHadas Parush/Flash 90

The Liba Center has published a short history of the partition between men and women at the Western Wall which refutes conclusively the claims by the Women of the Wall organization and the Reform Movement that the gender separation at the Wall is an invention of the Chief Rabbinate and that there was never a partition at the Western Wall before Israel liberated the site during the Six Day War.

Setting up a partition between men and women at the Western Wall was a difficult process for many years, because of restrictions imposed by the Ottoman Turks and the British Mandatory Administration while they ruled over the land of Israel, the report explains.

The Liba Center's short history of the Western Wall displays photographs of the site taken by British tourist Herbert Ricks in 1902. The photographs of Jews praying at the Western Wall clearly show a partition between different sections for men and women at the Western Wall. Several years after the pictures were taken the Ottoman government began to place restrictions on what the Jews could set up at the Western Wall. Even benches and chairs were prohibited because of the threats from Arabs who claimed ownership of the site.

Jerusalem's rabbis attempted to persuade the Ottoman government to remove the restrictions that prevented the partition from being set up in 1912, but their efforts were cut short by the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

After the Arab riots and massacres of Jews in 1929, the British government also forbade the Jewish community from setting up a partition at the Western Wall. However, Rabbi Orenstein, the Rabbi of the Western Wall, would stand in a special place during times of prayer to create some kind of separation between men and women's praying areas.

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the Chief Rabbi of Israel at the time, appealed to the British authorities to allow a partition to separate men from women at the Western Wall, but to no avail.

Most pictures from the Western Wall before the establishment of the state show men and women together without a partition. That is because they were taken during the period when the Jews were prohibited from setting up a partition, and even then, there were times when a partition existed, putting paid to the Reform Movement claims about there having never been a partition at the Western Wall before 1968.