Jerusalem – Ultra-Ortodox rabbis have called on their followers to visit the Western Wall early in the morning or late at night, because “it is almost impossible to pass through the place without running into a prohibition”.
The ad was published in Yated Neeman newspaper by the Rabbinical Transportation Committee, which supports kosher bus lines – seating women and men separately – in Jerusalem.
The ad says, “Throughout the year the Western Wall is visited by a large crowd of visitors from every public sector in Israel, and it is difficult to police the level of modesty in the area.” This is a problem, the rabbis say, as it constitutes religious transgression.
In recent months a special “men only” path has been allotted to the haredim, allowing them to walk separately from the gate to the wall, but organizations fighting the “haredi-izing of the Kotel” have protested this move.
The rabbis also call on those traveling to the holy site by bus to maintain a separation between men and women, though Israel’s major bus company Egged has rejected this move.
They say the separation is only maintained properly on line 3, which travels from the northern ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods directly to the wall. The rabbis hope that if more people begin to use this line, Egged will increase the number of buses traveling this route.
The rabbi of the Western Wall and the holy sites of Israel, Shmuel Rabinovitch, said in response to the ad, “I respect the Jews who wish to visit the Western Wall in their own way and according to their views, with respect for other views and without offending the worshippers at the site.”
“We must look for a way to allow them to visit the praying area at all hours, through understanding of the complicated essence of the holy site,” he added.
“We are making an effort to preserve the precarious status-quo that exists at the Western Wall,” the rabbi said, adding that all worshippers who desired to visit the site should be allowed to do so at all hours.
“We will not achieve this with loud headlines. Only through a profound understanding of the needs of all involved, compromise, and humility will we find a way to accept all who wish to stand before the holy stones that belong to everyone,” he said.