Saturday, Feb. 27
Written by Rabbi Joel Nickerson
Today was my first opportunity to stand next to both men and women and pray at the Western Wall. Most of us have experienced the Kotel (another name for the Western Wall) in a gender-specific setting, with men in one section and women in another. However, with the recent formation of the Ezrat Israel section, men and women, husbands and wives, parents and children, finally have the opportunity to pray with each other and experience the beauty, magnificence, and power of praying together at the most ancient Jewish site.
The Ezrat Israel section is separated from the more traditional (and well-known) part of the Kotel, with its own entrance near the Robinson’s Arch archeological site. If you look at an overview of the area, the new section is to the right and below the bridge that leads up to the Temple Mount.
As you walk down the stairs towards the new Kotel section, the first thing you notice is the famous Robinson’s Arch. While there is much to be said historically about this famous arch, when you look to the left of the Arch, you notice the new section laid out before your eyes. While there is a large platform where groups can gather for b’nei mitzvah celebrations and prayer services, there is a smaller platform that is directly attached to the Wall itself.
This new section of the Kotel has a bright future – a future full of Jews of all types coming to celebrate together in a meaningful, yet accessible space. After some moments of silent reflection at the Wall, we came together to recite the Shema, offer a Mi Shebeirach prayer for all those who are in need of healing, and the Shecheyanu prayer to mark this special moment. I cannot wait to come back to this part of the Kotel with my own family, so I can stand next to my wife and three daughters and pray to God together as a family. I cannot wait to take other groups from my community to this space and share its beauty. It is incumbent upon all of us to spread the news about this new section, go there when we visit Jerusalem, and tell all of our friends about this new opportunity to pray at the Wall.