New Law Would Put Rabbinate in Charge of Kosel

The Kosel. (Sebi Berens/Flash90)

The latest “challenge” to Israel’s sovereignty over the Kosel – the dustup over whether the U.S. considers the holy site to be part of Israel or “on the West Bank” – should be a further wakeup call to Israelis that legislation regarding the status of the Kosel is sorely needed, MK David Bitan (Likud) said in a radio interview Tuesday. Added to the challenge from the U.S. and other nations on Israel’s relationship to the Kosel the other threats to its kedushah – such as demands from Conservative, Reform, and women’s groups to conduct services that violate Halachah and Jewish tradition – and the law becomes an absolute necessarily, Bitan told Kol Chai radio.

Under Bitan’s proposal, the Chief Rabbinate would be appointed as the sole administrator of the entire Kosel, including the area that faces the Kosel plaza, the covered area, the southern Kosel, and the “Kosel Hakatan” in the Muslim quarter. Various government proposals have advocated the use of several areas, especially along the southern Kosel area, for use by non-Orthodox groups for services that violate Halachah.

“The purpose of this law is to set the unique standing and holiness of the Kosel, as part of the laws to preserve holy sites,” Bitan wrote in an addendum to the law, which is to be submitted to the Ministerial Law Committee in the coming weeks. “There is a great deal of confusion on who is in charge of the Kosel, who sets the areas where prayers can take place, and other issues. There is a dire need for a law like this, in order to ensure that none who visit the Kosel to daven are offended.”

Under the law, said Bitan, the areas where prayers may take place will be delineated, although the Rabbinate will reserve the right to change things in the event of large crowds, when holidays or special events take place, or the like. The law is similar to one proposed by MK Rabbi Michael Michaeli (Shas) introduced last December. Bitan said that when the bills reach committee, they may be combined into a single bill.