The IAA wants the public barred from approaching the wall

A dislodged 100 kilogram stone fell from Jerusalem's Western Wall to the prayer platform located below. The area near Robinson's Arch was empty at the time of the incident, and there were no injuries. The said platform was the Ezrat Yisrael one, a non-segregated gender location, and one of the two spaces earmarked for egalitarian prayer activities. The incident resulted in the closure of all events at that spot. The rock, however, landed close to Daniella Goldberg, a female worshiper.

The incident took place a day after Tisha B'Av fast, an event commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem's two Jewish temples. The place was full of worshipers that day, numbering in the thousands. The devout flocked to the principal prayer plaza of the Western Wall over a space of about 24 hours, beginning Saturday night and ending on Sunday evening.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) sent a team of expert conservationists, engineers, and archaeologists to examine the accident area of the structure, a Herodian wall dating back 2,000 years. Incidentally, it is also the holiest site where Jews can pray. The IAA subsequently released a statement, saying that several reasons could be responsible for the stone being dislodged from the wall. The list of causes includes trapped moisture erosion, the growth of vegetation in cracks which were a characteristic of the entire wall structure, and a number of yet to be discovered engineering failures. The report said that the organization will use advanced technological practices to monitor the affected area as part of the total survey. It will then recommend a set of solutions to eliminate such a danger. The IAA ventured its opinion that the public must be barred from approaching any part of the wall, with a minimum distance between the wall and the visitor being two meters.

The IAA added that it was fully aware that a certain sensitivity is needed to handle this incident. It assured every one of its full cooperation with the relevant bodies. This is important as the subject of egalitarian prayer at Western Wall has always been a controversial subject. The display of piety is a continuing dispute flashpoint between the liberal strain of Jews and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish denominations. The liberals, like Reform and Conservative movements, populated mostly by the diaspora, are in conflict with Tel Aviv over inordinate delays in the creation of non-Orthodox and mixed gender prayer section at Western Wall. They want women to pray and hold a litany of religious ceremonies along with men in that area. The Orthodox oppose it in the pretext of such action destroying ancient Jewish tradition and law.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter