Orthodox prayer in the Ezrat Yisrael
Orthodox prayer in the Ezrat YisraelSpokesperson

In the last few days, activists from the Joint Committee for the Sanctity of the Kotel have been arriving at the Kotel Hama’aravi (Western Wall), along with several rabbis, to pray the afternoon and evening prayers (Minchah and Maariv) at the Ezrat Yisrael section at the site.

Several years have passed since the site was designated as a place for those who wish to pray without division between men and women, but the site is almost always empty, with religious and secular Jews alike opting to pray at the main prayer section.

The activists have been bringing with them a makeshift mechitzah (partition) made of canvas that they erect to separate between men and women, which has infuriated the Women of the Wall, even though this feminist, leftist group always conducts its prayer services in the women’s section of the main plaza, where its ultimate objective is to see the mechitzah there torn down.

In addition, every evening Torah classes are being held in the Ezrat Yisrael section, which is located in the southern part of the plaza. This Thursday night, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, the dean (rosh yeshivah) of the Ateret Kohanim yeshivah, will be giving a Torah class. Those giving classes in recent days have included Rabbi Moshe Ben Abu and Rabbi Meir Ne’eman.

According to the activists, “We understand that the Kotel is one of the main objectives of those who want to change the nature of the State of Israel. The battle over the Kotel is really a battle over the character of the State – whether it will remain a Jewish state or whether it will become a ‘state of all its citizens.’”

“The Kotel is ours, too,” they add. “Especially now, when all those associated with the Reform are celebrating what they see as their victory and planning their next moves to undermine Judaism – conversion, religious courts and more – it’s vital that we stop them in their tracks and act, here at the Kotel, in order to prevent Reform elements from gaining control over this holy site and over other places that are central to Judaism.”

Oren Henig, head of the Liba Center, an organization that is dedicated to enhancing the Jewish character of the State of Israel, stated: “At a time when a left-wing government established by [Prime Minister Naftali] Bennett together with [Yair] Lapid, [Mansour] Abbas, and [Arab Labor MK Ibtisam] Mara’ana, is selling out the state to the Reform movement, we at the Liba Center are calling on everyone to whom Judaism is important to arrive here and strengthen our hold over the Kotel and protect its sanctity.”

As noted above, the Women of the Wall are incensed at this new initiative. “It is inconceivable that we should accept the violence and incitement created by these extremist Religious Zionist elements in their disgusting power grab over the Ezrat Yisrael.”

According to them, “The Liba Center, Chotam, and other such extremist organizations who call themselves the Committee for the Protection of the Sanctity of the Kotel, are doing exactly the opposite of protecting its sanctity. They are debasing the sanctity of this holy place and behaving in exactly the opposite way to what they should have learned from history – from the events that led up to the destruction of the Holy Temple, times of baseless hatred among the Jewish People.

“We are appealing to whoever is responsible for ensuring order and preventing violence at the Western Wall to do what they should be doing, and prevent the holding of prayers at the Ezrat Yisrael. Those making decisions at the site and anyone who has eyes in his head should learn from this event, as well as from the violent occurrence that happened on Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, when extremists tore the pages out of prayer books belonging to the Women of the Wall. They have to realize who are the people really making the disturbances there, inciting and committing acts of violence – and who are the people who only want to pray there in their own way.”

In their response to the latest developments, Tenuat Ne’emanei Torah ve’Avodah issued a statement: “Instead of working toward unity among Jews and bringing them closer to G-d, these organizations are trying to forcibly gain control over the Ezrat Yisrael that was established in order to provide a place for those who want to pray in their own manner. It is sad to see ‘Protecting the sanctity of the Kotel’ turning into a protest in the form of Torah classes. We hope that this issue of the Kotel will be resolved in a manner that invites every Jew to connect with G-d in his own way.”