Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Dov Kalmanovich said Monday that Reform Jews should reflect on the significance of a large stone that came crashing down on the Western Wall’s egalitarian prayer plaza earlier in the day.
Kalmanovich, of the national-religious Jewish Home party, said in a statement, “We must not explain and interpret natural phenomena as signs from heaven, as the ways of the Creator are hidden,” but then added that “the timing and the location of the fall raise many questions.
“The falling of one of the Western Wall stones, so close to Tisha B’Av, and exactly at the location of the controversial prayer area, should be a red light for us all,” he said, referring to the Hebrew date of the destruction of the Second Temple, which this year was commemorated on Sunday.
“I suggest that Reform leaders, Women of the Wall, and the other quarrel-mongers examine themselves, and not the Wall.”
Women of the Wall is a group campaigning for the right for women to lead prayer services in the women’s section of the main Western Wall plaza, which currently adheres to Orthodox rules permitting only men to lead services.
The large boulder fell during the morning, near Robinson’s Arch, south of the main Orthodox prayer plaza, and landed on a platform used for nondenominational and mixed prayer. The rock, whose fall was captured by security camera footage, landed very close to a female worshiper there. It damaged the platform on which she was praying.
Demands for the establishment of a permanent, non-Orthodox prayer space has been the subject of heavy criticism by some religious officials.
There are already several noticeable gaps in the Western Wall, where large Herodian stones have crumbled in the past. In a notable case in 2004, large pieces of Western Wall stone fell in the mainstream prayer plaza — slightly injuring a Yom Kippur worshiper — due to erosion caused by foreign metal objects inserted into the Wall’s cracks by birds.
The fallen boulder weighed about 220 pounds (100 kilograms), Israel Radio reported.
Following the stone’s fall from one of the original Herodian rows of the Western Wall, a team of IAA experts, including archaeologists, engineers and conservationists, began careful examination of the affected area.