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Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Issues Ruling Against Egalitarian Prayer Space at Western Wall

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

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Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar. Photo: Itzik Edri via Wikicommons.

The Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar has issued a ruling forbidding the creation of a mixed-gender prayer space at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Amar’s ruling comes as the issue is being passed to a special committee headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which will be tasked with formulating a policy on the highly controversial question.

According to Israel’s Channel 2, Amar’s ruling stated that, according to Jewish law, it is forbidden to change the current status of the Wall.

“Here I return to the well-known ruling,” wrote Amar, “that the entire length of the Western Wall from end to end is a holy place and one must behave toward it according to all the laws of the synagogue and the beit midrash. … And no man has authority to trample on a holy place, not by desecrating the sabbath or holidays, and not by men and women praying together.”

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Amar pointed out that, throughout the centuries of the Jewish exile, “the holiness of the synagogue and its honor were painstakingly protected. And there is no authority, not to a Knesset or a government, or any other institution, without exception, to raise a hand and undertake an action or decision that may bring harm to the sanctity of the site.”

The only legitimate authority over the Wall, said Amar, is “the chief rabbinate of Israel, which rules according to the halacha, and completely forbids interference with the remains of our Temple.”

The prayer space at the Wall is currently divided into separate men’s and women’s sections. Activists supported by liberal Jewish denominations in Israel and the Diaspora are pressing for the creation of a third space allowing both sexes to pray together.

The current plan would involve extending the area of the Wall available for prayer in order to accommodate such a space.

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