Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Bracha near Shechem, wrote in Arutz 7 on Thursday that Conservative and Reform Jews must be allowed to pray at the Ezrat Israel section of the Kotel, and the Rabbi of the Kotel must take care of all their needs, including providing them with a Torah scroll (הרב אליעזר מלמד: תפילת הרפורמים בעזרת ישראל).
Clashes broke out on Tisha B’Av night in the Ezrat Israel section between members of the liberal Jewish movements, to whose egalitarian prayer service the section had been dedicated, and a large group of men and women identified Hardalim—Religious Zionist Jews who are inclined toward Haredi ideology—who overwhelmed the Reform and Conservative congregants and forcefully set up a partition between the men and women, in clear violation of the rules.
“Since there are many Jews who identify with the Conservative and Reform movement, and according to their guiding values they have arranged for themselves common prayers for men and women in a style and with rules that are not according to the halacha and the customs of Israel, and they wish to pray at the Kotel as they wish, it would be right to state that in the Ezrat Israel section they should be able to hold their prayers with due respect,” Rabbi Melamed wrote.
The son of Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Beit El Yeshiva near Ramallah and the founder of the Arutz 7 broadcasting group, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed has received the Jewish Creation Award for his series of 20 books “Peninei Halacha,” which has sold more than half a million copies. Rabbi Melamed and his wife Inbal, the daughter of the artist Tuvia Katz, have thirteen children.
“And if the number of people praying under their leadership increases,” Rabbi Melamed noted regarding the need to welcome Reform and Conservative Jews into their egalitarian prayer area, “the authorities will increase and expand the Ezrat Israel section for them as needed. And the members of the religious and Haredi communities who observe the laws and the customs should not be sad that members of these movements come to the Western Wall, but rejoice that more Jewish brethren are connected with the area of the Temple and more brethren want to pray to our Father in heaven, and they should look favorably on the fact that even though we disagree with their changes in the halacha we know how to respect and appreciate all the good things in them. The sanctification of the Name is bigger than the desecration of the Name.”
Rabbi Melamed also referred to the government official in charge of the Kotel area, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, saying, “It is proper for the Rabbi of the Kotel to respect all Jews from all streams. And when a group of Conservative or Reform Jews wants to come and pray, he should welcome them at the Ezrat Israel section with a greeting. And although Ezrat Israel is not subject to his halachic provisions like a synagogue, it should still be a place that he cares for with the utmost respect. In other words, even though he will not pray with them due to his halachic observance, he should be very happy when they come to pray at the Kotel and encourage them to visit the Kotel regularly and in as large as possible groups.”
Rabbi Melamed also suggested that the Kotel Rabbi should “instruct his ushers to assist them in every way possible, so that they may pray most pleasantly to the Lord our God and the God of our fathers. And if they need a Torah scroll, he will take care of it with dignity, in good taste, and with knowledge.”
Finally, Rabbi Melamed believes it is the role of the Kotel Rabbi “to reassure the people who want to quarrel to concentrate on their own prayers out of love for Israel. And he should direct the women who want to read the Torah on Rosh Chodesh to Ezrat Israel and will take care of all their needs with dignity. And if there is a fear that various Jews will seize the Ezrat Israel section while Conservatives or Reformers want to pray, He should direct them to other parts of the Kotel, so that all Jews can feel like God’s beloved sons at the Kotel.”