Rav Rabinovich: The Kosel is Not a Banquet Hall; Immigrant Ceremony to Be Held On Aish Hatorah Roof


rav-shmuel-rabinovichFor years, the Jewish Agency has held a ceremony at the Kosel to welcome new immigrants to Israel. Now, weeks after Rav Shmuel Rabinovich, the rov of the Kosel, in an attempt to preserve the kedushah of the Kosel, said that the ceremonies should be held separately for men and women, he has asked for the ceremonies granting identity cards to new immigrants at the Kosel plaza to be halted altogether.

The ceremonies are part of a Jewish Agency initiative, together with the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, to speed up the citizenship process. As of this summer, newly arrived immigrants are taken to register for all the requisite services Рsuch as health insurance and opening a bank account Рon their first day in Israel and then to the Kosel for a ceremony in which they receive their ID cards as Israelis. 

The event takes place on the parade ground in front of the Kosel, where men and women can pass freely. The ceremony is mixed, with men and women sitting together.

In late July, the Kosel administration demanded the agency separate men and women at the ceremonies. It also demanded no ceremonies be hosted by women, and that the events must take place even further from the davening area, on the pedestrian route across the plaza.

Paula Edelstein, chairwoman of the Immigration and Absorption Committee at the Jewish Agency, said last month that the agency was considering stopping the ceremonies at the Kosel and noted that the last such ceremony took place at the Har Hatzofim amphitheater of the Hebrew University. Edelstein is a member of the Israel Religious Action Center of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism.

Rav Rabinovich sent a letter last week the heads of the Jewish Agency seeking to put an end to the ceremonies welcoming immigrants at the Kosel.

Tomorrow, the Jewish Agency was supposed to welcome no less than 5 flights of immigrants coming from 5 different countries. Hundreds of new immigrants were supposed to get together at a special ceremony at the Kosel. However, last week the agency officials in Yerushalayim received a letter from Rav Rabinovich informing them that they would be unable to hold the ceremony as it is a mixed gathering.
The letter stated: “The Kosel is not the place for this ceremony in light of the enormous kedushah of the Kosel….The Kosel plaza cannot be a place for events…and only prayer ceremonies will take place at the Kosel Plaza,” the letter said.
According to reports, the Jewish Agency received the letter in disbelief:

“This is about people who left everything behind to do the deed and go to support Zionist Israel – for years we are conducting these events at the Kosel with immigrants are sitting with their families and receive a respectable reception…” said the agency.

The letter from Rav Rabinovich of course aroused the wrath of the Reform and Conservative communities around the world who are part of the board of the Jewish Agency. According to agency officials, they have contacted the Knesset and prime minister’s office demanding that they intervene and bring about a change in the decision.

In the meantime, the Jewish Agency will indeed stop holding citizenship ceremonies for new immigrants at the Kosel plaza, in keeping with the request from Rav Rabinovich. Tomorrow’s ceremony will be held instead on the roof of Yeshiva Aish Hatorah overlooking the Kosel.

A spokesman for Jewish Agency chair Natan Sharansky said Sharansky and the agency have accepted Rav Rabinovitch’s demands to stop the ceremonies, agreeing they were civic, not religious.

Under the compromise, the ceremonies will be held on the roof of Aish or by Robinson’s Arch, where Reform Jews have been allowed to hold mixed-gender prayer sessions.

Rav Rabinovich told Haaretz that the request to stop holding the ceremonies at the Kosel had nothing to do with segregation.

“This is a purely administrative question about the character of the Kosel. The Kosel is not a banquet hall,” he said.

When asked whether official ceremonies held at the Kosel, including the annual IDF memorial ceremony, would be canceled, officials at the heritage foundation said, “The official state ceremonies will go on. It just goes to show the Kotel is not dominated by the chareidim.”

{Yair Alpert-Matzav.com Israel}


  1. I don’t understand the reform and conservative;the ones making all the noise. What business is the Kotel to them? I mean didn’t they even take all references to yerushalayim out of their prayerbooks? I mean let them make up their minds, if all the bible are just stories then the bais hamikdosh is just another story for them, so why the intense interest to have their celebrations dafka at the Kotel. Go have them in front of the Knesset, or the high courthouse, or the city of Jerusalem’ Safra Square(and they can even park in the parking structure that’s open on shabbos).

  2. You ar ejust showing ignorance. Go and actually learn before you make statements. It’s like someone saying “What is the Kosel to the Charedim, if it were up to them we wouldn’t even have access because Israel wouldn’t exist”.