Rabbi Aryeh Stern
Rabbi Aryeh SternFlash 90

Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern presented his own proposal to resolve the dispute over the Western Wall in light of the petitions by the Reform and Conservative movements to the Supreme Court and their demands for official recognition and a new egalitarian prayer site at the Western Wall.

"We appealed today to the justices of the Supreme Court, in order to preserve the sanctity of the Western Wall, the remnant of our Temple. It is impossible to do things that are unacceptable according to the spirit and the Torah of Israel," Rabbi Stern told Arutz Sheva.

Rabbi Stern explained that the Western Wall plan that was canceled by the government entailed the establishment of a council for the management of the Southern Wall, the "Ezrat Yisrael." In effect, the plan would have neutralized the control of the Chief Rabbinate at the Western Wall.

The Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem presented his outline, which would grant the Reform Movement a place close to the Southern Wall without affecting the sanctity of the site. "In the entire section adjacent to the stones of the southern wall, there will be a complete separation as in the Western Wall, up to two meters [from the wall]."

"For example, a couple which comes to the Ezrat Yisrael would be able to approach the stones together for up to two meters and henceforth, if they wish to touch the stones, they will maintain complete separation and preserve the sanctity of the site. Behind them would be a large square open to everyone."

Is there a real crisis between the State of Israel and Diaspora Jewry, or is it just a provocation of the Women of the Wall?

"There is also the provocation of the Women of the Wall, but there are but there are parts of American Jewry, Reform Jews who feel they have no place for prayer at the Western Wall, and we must not bury our heads in the sand. That is why I thought that this outline on one hand gives the various streams a place of their own, while on the other hand, preserving the sanctity of the Western Wall and does not allow mixed prayer near the stones of the Western Wall.

Can your plan be accepted by the government, the haredim, and the Reform Movement?

"I hope that the outline will be accepted. This is a call for peace. We gain nothing from quarrels with the Reform Movement. This is my proposal on this matter, to call for peace among the people of Israel. My idea is, of course, about the southern wall. At the Western Wall, we must continue with complete separation and holiness."