Friday, January 14, 2011

New prayer area adjacent to HaKotel HaKatan?

From Ha'aretz, an article by Akiva Eldar where I try to remove all vestiges of bias. Read the original to see how bad it really is.

The Jerusalem Development Authority recently removed scaffolding in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. The authority, controlled by the Jerusalem municipality and by several ministries, removed scaffolding from under an arch supporting Palestinian homes in the Little Western Wall plaza (also known as the Little Kotel plaza ).

The move was carried out to make more room in the plaza for Jewish prayer and other events.

The courtyard faces a small of section of the western support wall of the Temple Mount. The largest open section of that same wall is known as the Western Wall.

The Little Kotel plaza is considered the second closest spot (after the Western Wall Tunnel) to the "Holy of Holies," which was the most sacred place for Jews in the temple.

Ateret Cohanim, headed by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, has been demanding for years that the scaffolding be removed to make room for prayer and other events. The Waqf (the Muslim religious trust ) has specifically warned against the removal of the scaffolds and opening the site to prayer gatherings, threatening a strong response.

According to the Ateret Cohanim website, students of the Ateret Yerushalayim yeshiva pray in the courtyard every Friday, and no disturbances at the site have been recorded in recent years. The website also states that the Little Kotel is visited by Jews throughout the year, including both private individuals and tours organized by various groups.

The scaffolds do not actually support the arch.
I found a photo of the scaffolding in a picture of a women's prayer gathering at the Kotel ha-Katan in 2005 taken by Batya Medad::

Her husband, Yisrael, took this photo only yesterday - there was no sign previously:

Notice that when Jews want to use a space that is not being used at all, by Muslims of anyone else, this is considered highly provocative. No one is being kicked out of their homes, no change to the status quo (despite what Ha'aretz is claiming in the original article,) - just when Jews who are already praying at the site want to be shielded from the elements, they'll have a place to go.

This is fantastic news. There is no downside except for Muslim threats - and Muslims will threaten Jewish rights in Jerusalem regardless of what Jews actually do. Far better for Jews to assert these rights than to ceded them in fear of a "strong response."

Here is a post about my visit to the Kotel ha-Katan four years ago, and here's some background about efforts to give the site the prominence it deserves.