Angerat Kotel­rule on­gen­der

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

A MOVE by the rabbi of the West­ern Wall to gen­der-seg­re­gate cer­e­monies tak­ing place near Ju­daism’s holi­est shrine is caus­ing con­ster­na­tion.

Of­fi­cials at the Jewish Agency are con­sid­er­ing chang­ing the venue of the cer­e­mony at which new im­mi­grants to Is­rael are given their first iden­tity cards. Ac­cord­ing to the de­ci­sion of the West­ern Wall Her­itage Fund, headed by Rabbi Sh­muel Rabinovich, women and men would be forced to sit sep­a­rately and women would not be al­lowed to speak from the podium.

Un­til a few years ago, only the sunken area close to the wall was re­garded as a syn­a­gogue, and men and women were al­lowed to min­gle freely out­side that area. But four years ago, the prayer area was unof­fi­cially ex­tended all the way back to the houses of the Jewish Quar­ter and the se­cu­rity gates.

The Is­rael Re­li­gious Action Cen­tre, which is iden­ti­fied with Re­form, re­cently wrote to Rabbi Rabinovich and to the Re­li­gious Ser­vices Min­is­ter, Yaakov Margi, ob­ject­ing to the new rules.

“The forced seg­re­ga­tion is in­sult­ing and dis­crim­i­na­tory. It lim­its per­sonal free­doms.”

Rabbi Rabinovich de­nied that the sta­tus quo has changed and promised that the state events that have al­ways taken place at the wall, such as the an­nual na­tional memo­rial ser­vice for fallen IDF sol­diers, will con­tinue.

How­ever, he said that the Jewish Agency cer­e­monies were planned as “prayer events” and had to con­form to the guide­lines. Rabbi Rabinovich ac­knowl­edged that in the past the rules had not been en­forced through­out the Wall area, “but 20 years ago, a mil­lion peo­ple came ev­ery year to the Ko­tel. To­day it is 7 mil­lion and we some­times have 100,000 peo­ple here at one go, so the en­tire place is now a prayer area.”

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