The Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, released a statement regarding the recent incident involving the Women of the Wall. "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," he writes.
Since Anat Hoffman was arrested last month 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, as well as a new approach to prayer at the wall.
Recently, worshippers at the Western Wall were again caught, and not to their advantage, in the struggle among various streams of Judaism over recognition and influence. 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.
It is difficult to see a group who, in the name of its values and principles, renounces the verdict of the State of Israel’s High Court of Justice. Please let it be clear — 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".
It is even more difficult to see, in front of the Western Wall stones, scenes of Jews fighting each other and slandering one another. The stones of the Wall still remember the Jewish wars of two thousand years ago; the libel, the wars of the righteous, the knives drawn on brothers inside the Temple. It was not the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem, our sages taught us, but the baseless hatred that spread within it.
I have written this before and will write it again – the Western Wall is not Orthodox just as it is not Reform. The Western Wall was there many years before we sadly split into streams and camps, and will continue to stand strong, God willing, until the Mashiach comes. 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.
For this reason, and this reason alone, there will not be at the Western Wall a demonstration quorum of Women of the Wall, just as there will not be at the Western Wall a "gathering" of a Hassidic leader. 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 first chief rabbi of the Land of Israel, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, of blessed memory, said "The pure righteous do not complain about evil but add righteousness, do not complain about heresy but add faith, do not complain about ignorance but add wisdom." While facing the repeated attempts to turn the Western Wall, the unifying heart of the Jewish nation, into an arena of public dispute, we will continue to work toward bringing millions of students, soldiers, tourists, and worshippers to the Western Wall every year, out of respect and love for each one of them. And both the observant and the secular, both Jews and non-Jews, will continue to pray at the Western Wall Plaza side by side with mutual respect and brotherhood, as is written: "for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." And with God’s help, when the fire of dispute and baseless hatred die out, all will find their place here.