Rav Rabinovich Stands Up for Kedushah of Kosel Area, Wants Immigrants’ Welcome Ceremony Separate


rav-shmuel-rabinovichThe Jewish Agency is considering whether to halt ceremonies granting identity cards to new immigrants at the Kosel plaza after Rav Shmuel Rabinovich, the rov of the Kosel, in an attempt to preserve the kedusha of the place, said that the ceremony should be held separately for men and women.

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

Paula Edelstein, chairwoman of the Immigration and Absorption Committee at the Jewish Agency, told Haaretz that the event takes place on the parade ground in front of the Kosel , where men and women can pass freely. The ceremony would be mixed, with men and women sitting together.

But 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.

Edelstein said 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. The center’s legal adviser wrote to Rav Rabinovitch and to Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi (Shas) to cancel the new request, saying it did not correspond with the sacred sites law.

“Forced segregation between men and women is humiliating and impinges upon personal liberties, including the very basic freedom to choose where a person takes his seat – such as with his family,” the letter said. It noted that mixed ceremonies have “always” taken place outside the davening area of the Kosel plaza.

Rav Rabinovitch’s letter of reply suggests that he sees the Jewish Agency ID ceremony as a religious ceremony. “The permission we gave to hold the ceremony was only given because the Jewish Agency told us this was an event of joint prayer of those passing into the gates of Eretz Yisroel for the sake of their successful settling in the Holy Land… as such, this ceremony must be held in accordance with the relevant regulations, which demand segregation,” Rav Rabinovitch wrote. His letter concludes that unless the agency separates the men and women, the ceremonies should be held in the Progressives’ prayer location. 

 {Yair Alpert-Matzav.com Israel, based on a Haaretz Report}


  1. There are many ceremonies at the Kosel plaza where there are mixed family sitting, why not allow the new citizens to receive their teudat zeut there? It is not a disturbance to those that are davening, and it is a memory that lasts for a long time.