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The Schmooze

Prayer at the Western Wall: A Weekday-Only Activity?

The Western Wall was abnormally busy this afternoon. More people than on a usual Friday left their Sabbath preparations and braved the cool Jerusalem weather to head for the Wall. Why?

One reason is that today is a fast day, the Fast of Tevet, and people wanted to pray at the special afternoon service. But there’s another far more surprising explanation. Israel’s most revered Haredi rabbi, Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, had declared that going to the Western Wall should be a weekday-only activity because when the site’s security cameras film you, you become a Sabbath transgressor.

The ruling appeared in the Haredi daily newspaper Yated Ne’eman. As this newspaper is spearheading the campaign declaring the Internet is treif, we cannot provide a link.

Elyashiv’s declaration has been met with raised eyebrows in the modern-Orthodox community. Yisrael Rozen, head of the Tzomet Institute that develops halachically-compliant technology, has been quoted saying that “whoever wants to prohibit the Western Wall cameras will have to order religious people to stay away from yeshivas, hotels, banquet halls and public areas, all of which use online security cameras.”

There could be an unintended beneficiary of this ruling. In July, the Forward reported about the problems facing women who wish to pray publicly at the Western Wall. If it will tomorrow be lacking followers of Elyashiv — some of the more hard-line elements of Israeli Jewry — maybe it’s a rare opportunity for some undisturbed prayer by the group Women of the Wall.

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