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Shmuel Rabinovitch - Biography

Shmuel Rabinovitch, also spelled Rabinowitz (born 4 April 1970, Jerusalem) is an Orthodox rabbi and Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel. Among his duties at the Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, he is responsible for ensuring that notes placed in the Wall are removed and treated consistent with tradition and halakhah, as well as enforcing guidelines around the Wall about modesty and not taking photographs on Jewish holidays. He often escorts visiting heads of state and foreign dignitaries during their visit to the Wall, and has been an outspoken defender of Torah values at the Jewish people's holiest site.



Rabinovitch is the son of Rabbi Chaim Yehuda Rabinovitch, av beis din of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Courts, and grandson of Rabbi Shmuel Benzion Rabinovitch (d. 1950), a Lubavitcher Hasid born in Russia who brought up six children in the Old Yishuv but died at a young age. Shmuel Rabinovitch was named after his grandfather. He grew up in the Kiryat Mattersdorf neighborhood of Jerusalem and studied at Yeshivat Kol Torah in Bayit Vegan.

During his army service, he served in the Rabbinical Corps of the Israel Defence Forces. Following that, he was appointed as an area rabbi in southwest Jerusalem.

Rabinovitch was appointed to the position of Rabbi of the Western Wall by former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and former chief rabbis of Israel following the death of the Rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Meir Yehuda Getz, in 1995.

Rabbi of the Western Wall

The Western Wall is a frequent source of political and religious controversy, and Rabinovitch has been involved in and commented on many such controversies.

In May 2008, Rabinovitch prevented a delegation of Roman Catholic clergy from visiting the Wall while they wore visible crosses. Rabinovitch stated that anyone was welcome to pray at the Wall as long as he or she did not offend Jewish sensibility by wearing symbols of other religions. In a similar incident in 2007 with a group of Austrian clergy, Rabinovitch claimed that when Pope John Paul II visited the Wall he had not had a visible cross but pictures of the Pope's visit contradicted this claim. In 2009, Rabinovitch refused to honor the request of Pope Benedict XVI to clear the area of Jewish worshippers upon his visit to the Western Wall, and also asked the pope to cover the gold cross he wears around his neck. Israeli diplomatic sources overruled the latter request.

Rabinovitch has maintained rigid gender separations at the Wall, siding with the Haredi Jewish minority against the more numerous non-Orthodox Jews. He was also involved in an incident in 2009 when an Orthodox member of Women of the Wall was praying in the women's section while wearing a tallit (a traditional Jewish prayer shawl worn by men) and holding a Sefer Torah. Haredi men who were praying in the men's section violently objected. With the authority of Rabbi Rabinovitch, the police arrested the praying woman. Rabinovitch explained, "It is an act of provocation that seeks to turn the Western Wall into disputed territory...A prayer that causes contention and desecration of the sanctity of the Western Wall has no value. It is an act of protest". The woman was not charged, though she was banned from visiting the Western Wall for two weeks.

Escorting dignitaries

Rabinovitch accompanies many heads of state, religious figures, foreign dignitaries, and media on tours of the Wall and the Western Wall Tunnel. He escorted US First Lady Laura Bush together with Gila Katsav, wife of then-President of Israel Moshe Katsav, on a visit in 2005, and Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska, in 2011.

In July 2008, Rabinovitch accompanied U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama on a pre-dawn visit to the Wall. During this visit, Obama placed a prayer note in the Wall. After Obama and his entourage departed, his note—written on hotel stationery—was removed from the Wall by a seminary student who sold it to the Maariv newspaper. The newspaper published the note, prompting criticism from other news sources and from Rabinovitch for violating the privacy that is inherent in notes placed in the Wall.

Rabinovitch wrote a sefer entitled Sheilos u'Teshuvos Shaarei Tzion containing the many halakhic questions which have arisen at the Western Wall and other holy sites. One chapter deals exclusively with the question of disposing the prayer notes commonly inserted between the stones of the Wall. Rabinovitch rules that burning is a "pure" way to deal with the notes, but burying them is more honorable. Twice a year, Rabinovitch and his assistants collect the hundreds of thousands of prayer notes left in the Wall and bury them in the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

He is also the author of Minhagei HaKotel, a book on the history and customs of the Western Wall.

Other activities

Rabinovitch is the chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, a government-mandated organization which preserves and develops the Western Wall site and Western Wall Tunnel, as well as promotes the value of the site through education.. Rabinovitch has also headed a public commission for environmental quality, and supervision and licensing of burials in Israel. He is a former vice president of the Aleh Children's Home in Jerusalem.


This article incorporates material from the Hebrew Wikipedia article, שמואל רבינוביץ.

External links

Источник статьи: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shmuel_Rabinovitch
В статье упоминаются люди:   Шмуэль Рабиновицч

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