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Kotel Rabbi Questions Natan Sharansky’s Plan for Egalitarian Prayer

Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall, said rabbis must weigh whether to oppose a compromise proposal over egalitarian prayer at Judaism’s holiest site.

In a statement Thursday, Rabinowitz vowed to fight against “the slightest deviation” from customary practice at the Western Wall. However, he left unclear whether the compromise forged by Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky, which would create a permanent site for egalitarian prayer at a section of the Western Wall called Robinson’s Arch, constituted such a deviation.

“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 halachah,” or law, Rabinowitz said. “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.’”

Earlier this month, Rabinowitz said he “can live with” the Sharanksy 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.

But Rabinowitz’s tone appears to have hardened following meetings with Orthodox rabbis in North America – whom Rabinowitz said oppose Sharansky’s proposal – and in the wake of a court ruling this week that women’s prayer in the existing women’s section of the Western Wall Plaza should not be abridged.

“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,” the statement said. Any change “will face strong opposition and bring about a civil war.”

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