"I will fight wholeheartedly against any harm to the holiness of the Western Wall, and I will not allow the slightest deviation from what is and has been customary at the site for decades…[any change] will face strong opposition and bring about a civil war.”
Haredi Kotel Rabbi Says Court Ruling Will Lead To “Civil War”
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Allowing women’s prayer groups at the Kotel (Western Wall) will lead to civil war, the haredi state-appointed rabbi of the Kotel, Shmuel Rabinowitz, said yesterday.
"I will fight wholeheartedly against any harm to the holiness of the Western Wall, and I will not allow the slightest deviation from what is and has been customary at the site for decades…[any change] will face strong opposition and bring about a civil war,” Rabinowitz said in a prepared statement reported by the JTA.
Rabinowitz also said he is not sure about accepting Natan Sharansky’s proposed Kotel compromise – a compromise Rabinowitz already accepted last week.
“I want the Western Wall to continue to unite the nation as in the past, according to the customs of the site and without veering away from Jewish halakha. That said we must, along with the Chief Rabbinate and other great rabbis, examine if we should oppose the proposal referring to Robinson's Arch, which is not part of the Western Wall synagogue, if this would be a solution acceptable to everyone and will distance dispute from the Western Wall Plaza and prevent the continued provocations and 'baseless hatred,’” his statement reads.
But previously, Rabinowitz had said that he could “live with" Sharanksy’s compromise.
“This re-division of the plaza does not match my worldview, as I believe that there should be one site of prayer according to the place's customs, but we can live with this solution," Rabinowitz told Ynet two weeks ago.
However, after accepting Sharansky’s compromise Rabinowitz met with Orthodox and haredi rabbis in North America who, Rabinowitz claims, oppose it. These rabbis supposedly influenced Rabinowitz.
Then yesterday the Jerusalem District Court ruled that women praying at the Kotel wearing tallits (prayer shawls) and tefillin (phylacteries) in the existing women's section of the Western Wall Plaza is not a violation of the custom of the site and is not disturbing the peace. The ruling rejected the police understanding of a decade-old High Court of Justice ruling, and also pointed out that the High Court’s ruling was conditioned on Robinson’s Arch being converted by the government into an area of prayer for egalitarian prayer groups and for women’s prayer groups equal to the area traditionally referred to as the Kotel. However, the court noted, a decade had passed and the government had done nothing to fulfill that condition.
This ruling also allegedly hardened Rabinowitz’s view.
But there are those who believe that Sharansky’s compromise could never have been implemented because it must be conditioned on approval of the Waqf, the muslim religious association that controls the Temple Mount.
As it now stands, a massive ramp and embankment leading up to the Temple Mount and the Muslim shrines located there cuts off Robinson’s Arch from the traditional Kotel area. To make Sharansky’s compromise work, the ramp and embankment would have to be removed or rebuilt, and that entrance to the Temple Mount would probably need to be closed. The Waqf actively resists even minor changes to the area’s topography and is unlikely to approve these required changes.
Even if the government would decide to proceed without the Waqf’s approval, the resulting violence would transfer the decision to proceed from whatever parts of the government were handling the reconstruction to Israel’s security services, and the security services would almost certainly halt construction.
Indeed, Sharansky’s plan seems to have been designed to relegate women’s prayer groups and egalitarian prayer groups to Robinson’s Arch as it now exists, cut off from the Kotel proper by the embankment and ramp, and this can explicitly be seen in Rabinowitz’s statement.
“…[W]e must…examine if we should oppose the proposal referring to Robinson's Arch, which is not part of the Western Wall synagogue, if this would be a solution acceptable to everyone and will distance dispute from the Western Wall Plaza…,” Rabinowitz wrote – explicitly referring to Sharansky’s compromise as a plan to “distance” women’s prayer groups and egalitarian prayer groups “from the Western Wall Plaza” itself.
But if the prayer areas directly abutted each other without the ramp and embankment in place to divide them, if they were one continuous prayer area with a section for Orthodox-haredi men’s prayer, one for women’s Orthodox-haredi prayer, and a third for egalitarian prayer and women’s prayer groups, there would be no “distance” between the prayer Rabinowitz deems divisive and and the areas for the prayer styles Rabonowitz approves.
Also telling was Rabinowitz’s tacit acknowledgement that the current prayer custom of the Kotel is not centuries old but is, instead, modern.
“I will not allow the slightest deviation from what is and has been customary at the site for decades…,” he wrote.