JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Western Wall is not Orthodox just as it is not Reform, the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, said.
"The Western Wall is the place of prayer for every individual in the nation, and as such, it must carefully safeguard the individual’s right to privacy and respect during the precious moments of prayer. The secret of the Western Wall is the secret of diminution which demands that each one of us minimize the traditions in which we differ and focus on what is common and which unifies us," Rabinowitz said in a statement released Thursday.
The statement came in response to the arrest last month of Anat Hoffman for leading more than 200 women in the Shema prayer in the back of the women’s section at the Western Wall. Jewish groups have called for a police investigation into the arrest and changes in the decision-making process on policies at the holy site to include non-Orthodox Jews.
Rabinowitz decried the incident, saying that "The prayer of thousands of people who came to the Western Wall from afar was disturbed by illegal demonstrations, provocation, and arrests that were meant as a show for the media."
He added that "the organization of the Women of the Wall and the entire Reform movement are the only Jewish stream who received from the State of Israel its own private area for prayers at the Western Wall, at an investment of 2 million dollars of taxpayers’ money. All the other tens of streams and sub-streams in the Jewish nation crowd together in the Western Wall Plaza in peace and brotherhood, with mutual respect, and not one of them complains ‘this place is too small.’"
"This is the one place, perhaps the last, where we are all united as Jews. It would be terrible if here too we emphasize the differences among us. As the rabbi of the Western Wall, it is my job and my obligation to make sure this does not happen," the rabbi wrote.