Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich: Expanded Space for Women at Western Wall

Ezrat Nashim from above at Kotel

Photo by Rahel Jaskow

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, the rabbi in charge of the Kotel (Western Wall), said last week that he intends to enlarge the women’s section of the Western Wall.

Photographer Rahel Jaskow documented the poor conditions for women in two photo essays, Separate and Unequal at the Western Wall and Return to the Western Wall, Passover 2013.

Rabbi Rabbinovich brought up the plans at a joint meeting with the committee on internal affairs and the committee on the advancement of women at the Knesset, during a discussion of the Women of the Wall.

“The reality is that the women’s section is narrow and does not manage to contain all of the female worshippers. We are checkout out a solution, and there is a big chance that the women’s section will be enlarged. As for the mehitza (partition)—I agree that it is not respectful that women should stand on chairs to see their sons called up to the Torah [for a bar mitzvah]. Therefore we built a women’s section in the inside prayer hall, at the Kotel Tunnels, with one-way glass, through which women can see everything. We also intend to create a mehitza in the outside plaza so that everyone will be able to see without violating halacha (Jewish law). We have brought in experts who will find a solution, and I hope that within a month there will be a respectable mehitza that does not violate halacha. As for the Women of the Wall I request that at the Wall, they will not change the minhag hamakom (local custom). When you change the local custom, then you get many requests from the other side. The court has issued a ruling. Therefore there is a discussion in the Justice Ministry and the government secretary.

For the one or two readers not following the story: The court ruled that the prayer group known as “Women of the Wall” are not violating the law by their monthly prayer group in the women’s section of the plaza, even if they are wearing prayer shawls and phylacteries traditionally worn only by men during prayer. Hopefully the ruling will put an end to that part of the controversy.

Rahel responds:

To my mind, the issues are related but not identical. Group worship by women in the women’s section is one thing; the space allotted to women at the Western Wall is another.

Has Rabbi Rabinovich been in that balcony space? There’s a cleaning-supply closet right there, and men are allowed inside. Very undignified and disrespectful, in my opinion: the cleaning supplies should be kept elsewhere, and men should not be allowed in the women’s section.

From that enclosed balcony (with one-way glass and curtains), women can listen to bar-mitzva services through earphones. My photo shows the earphone jacks available.

In my opinion, Rabbi Rabinovich isn’t going to do anything new or worth getting excited about. I hope I’m mistaken.

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Comments

  1. To my mind, the issues are related but not identical. Group worship by women in the women’s section is one thing; the space allotted to women at the Western Wall is another.

    Has Rabbi Rabinovich been in that balcony space? There’s a cleaning-supply closet right there, and men are allowed inside. Very undignified and disrespectful, in my opinion: the cleaning supplies should be kept elsewhere, and men should not be allowed in the women’s section.

    From that enclosed balcony (with one-way glass and curtains), women can listen to bar-mitzva services through earphones. My photo shows the earphone jacks available.

    In my opinion, Rabbi Rabinovich isn’t going to do anything new or worth getting excited about. I hope I’m mistaken.

  2. I hope Rachel’s hard work will bear fruit. There will be a big turn out on Rosh chodesh , I doubt if the enlarged comlex will be ready

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