Rabbi says Wall visits break law

By Nathan Jeffay, December 22, 2010
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Jewish tourists who visit Israel often describe Shabbat prayers at the Western Wall as one of the most moving experiences of their trip. But according to the most influential rabbi in Israel, take part and you break religious law.

Yosef Shalom Elyashiv of Jerusalem has declared that the security cameras at the site operate in violation of Shabbat laws. While they are linked to a special system that is meant to make them compliant with religious law in its strictest interpretations, Rabbi Elyashiv believes that there is "currently insufficient supervision" to check that the operation is kosher.

This announcement appeared in Yated Neeman, the ultra-Orthodox daily newspaper which disseminates his rulings. It concluded: "So long as the matter is not resolved, it is Rabbi Elyashiv's opinion that one should not go to the Western Wall on
Shabbat."

But modern-Orthodox rabbis greeted the ruling with raised eyebrows. Dan Marans, executive director of Zomet, an Orthodox institute that finds high-tech solutions to halachic problems, said that being captured by monitoring cameras - even those without the special Shabbat-friendly setting of those at the Kotel - does not transgress Shabbat.

By the logic of the ruling, he added, people would "not be able to leave their own houses" on Shabbat, as a combination of satellite cameras including Google Earth and security cameras cover most Western countries.

    Last updated: 1:44pm, December 22 2010