Jewish Agency stops Western Wall ceremonies

By Jessica Elgot, October 13, 2009

New Israeli citizens will no longer have their immigration ceremony held at the Western Wall after a row erupted over gender segration at the Kotel.

Instead of a ceremony at the Wall, in which new olim are presented with their Israeli passports and identity cards, the Jewish Agency will hold the event at the Jewish Agency Courtyard.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, has previously demanded more stringent gender segregation at the Western Wall, causing a rift between him and the head of immigration and absorption at the Jewish Agency, Paula Edelstein.

He demanded that men and women must sit separately at the ceremony and said that women would not be allowed to speak from the podium. Ms Edelstein refused to comply with this demand.

Rabbi Rabinovitch told Ha’aretz that there was no religious reason for the Jewish Agency to hold the ceremony at the Kotel. He said: "This is a purely administrative question about the character of the Western Wall. The Wall is not a banquet hall."

Last updated: 3:37pm, October 14 2009