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Group calls for Western Wall rabbi to be fired for his involvement in Meron disaster

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch testifies before the Meron Disaster Inquiry Committee in Jerusalem, on August 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch testifies before the Meron Disaster Inquiry Committee in Jerusalem, on August 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Women of the Wall call for the chief rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch, to be fired from his position due to his involvement in last year’s disaster at Mount Meron, in which 45 men and boys were trampled to death.

Rabinovitch’s full title is rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Places, and in the latter capacity, he is responsible for Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s tomb on Mount Meron and for the annual mass gathering that is held there on the holiday of Lag B’Omer.

As such, Rabinovitch was one of 18 people, including former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Police Chief Kobi Shabtai, to receive letters of warning last week from a government inquiry commission informing them that they could face criminal action over last May’s tragedy.

The Women of the Wall, which fights for women to be able to worship freely at the Western Wall, has no great love for Rabinovitch due to his staunch and open opposition to their aims, as well as his unwillingness to use the powers at his disposal to restrain the at-times violent demonstrators who protest against Women of the Wall’s prayer services each month.

In the letter to Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Women of the Wall call for Rabinovitch’s immediate dismissal both due to his involvement in the Meron tragedy and his management of the Western Wall.

“In his public position, there are no term limits, violating democratic values. It is his duty to ensure safety for all worshipers at the sites under his management. For years, he has allowed violence against female worshipers at the Western Wall to ensue without consequence. Rabinovitch’s negligence is now compounded by his potential role in the Meron tragedy. It is time for this government to remove him from his position,” the group writes.

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