Nov 29, 2016

Proposed Law: Kotel area to run according to halacha

Minister Aryeh Deri is proposing a law, that probably won't pass, that he thinks will "solve" the conflict at the Kotel with the demands for accessibility by the Women of the Wall.

Deri's law will prohibit the Women of the Wall from praying in the main plaza of the Kotel but will give them their access in the southern section that has come to be known as the "Reform Kotel".

While the order and decorum at the Kotel was put into a set of regulations dating back to 1981, it was never actually set into law. This means that while things normally function smoothly, at times there is conflict. Deri therefore wants to put the regulations into actual law that will organize and set the rules for prayer service in the prayer plaza of the Kotel, while protecting the status and holiness of the entire Kotel area.

The law, if passed, will define what the Kotel area includes, the rav appointed over the Kotel area, the customs of the place, and what actions are prohibited in the area.

According to the proposal:
the Kotel area would include the Kotel itself and the plaza, along with any structures and pathways, above and below ground, who's access is via the Kotel plaza.
The rav would be the rav appointed by the Minister of Religious Services with the agreement of the Chief Rabbis of Israel.
The customs would be according to din torah as determined by the rabbinical courts and as established by the rav appointed over the Kotel.
The prayer plaza would be the area delineated on the map as the plaza of the Kotel and the prayer section of the Kotel.
Prohibited behaviors and actions are also delineated in the proposal, such as desecration of Shabbos and partitions between men and women, among other things. It would be prohibited to perform any ceremony, religious or otherwise, that does not follow local custom and is harmful to the sensitivities of the public praying there. As well, any such ceremonies that might disturb the prayers of those praying there. In the women's section any ceremony including the use of a Torah scroll, blowing of a shofar, and wearing tallis and/or tefillin, would be prohibited.

Punishment for anybody breaking this law would be subject to 6 months imprisonment or a 10,000nis fine.
source: Kikar, Walla News, INN, TOI

This proposal, as of now, is not expected to pass. Moshe Kachlon already said he opposes it and will fight it. Others will as well. UTJ is very good at threatening to get their demands met, but Shas hasn't been so good with that recently, and this is a Shas initiative.

A point that seems strange to me is that after they came up with the Kotel deal giving the Reform and Women of the Wall access to and control over the southern section, the Haredi MKs retracted their approval (for various reasons) and spoke very harshly against it and against giving what would become de facto recognition of the Reform in Israel. And Deri's law would do just that as well. So it is getting hard to keep up with all the flip-flopping about how they deal with the Reform.

Another interesting point to me is that Women of the Wall have responded saying that this is another step towards turning the State into a Halachik State, and would lead to running the entire State in old-fashioned ideas while erasing human rights and democratic rights from others. This is interesting to me because it seems by using the warning of "halachik state" they are admitting that their actions are against halacha while until now they insisted that they were within the bounds of halacha even if not within the bounds of current custom.

A concern of mine, or perhaps a curiosity, would be that pretty much every ceremony taking place at the Kotel disturbs the prayers of the people there. Army induction ceremonies with thousands of people in the plaza, State ceremonies (such as on Yom Hazikaron among others), yeshivas and hassidic groups that go there and have gatherings or make dance circles, even the nightly daf yomi shiur could be thought of by some as a disturbance, the bar mitzva ceremonies with darbuka drums,   among many others that happen on a daily basis, and even ceremonies such as the public menora lightings on Chanukka, could all be seen to be disturbing the prayers of those at the Kotel - will they all become illegal? Would the law get shot down because of this as people would appeal that some disturbing ceremonies are being allowed while other are not?

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1 comment:

  1. Attempting to make a "halachic" law can also backfire into support for an anti-halachic law ch"v by raising the visibility of more than the one issue he might want to target. And also by suggesting that these things are up for choice and vote, while up until now most of the country has looked at the practices as an important tradition that the non-religious also respect.


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