Shmuel Rabinovitch

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Rabbi Samuel Rabinowitz
Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel
Rabbi S. Rabinovitsh.jpg
Rabbi Samuel Rabinowitz
Began 1995
Predecessor Rabbi Meir Yehuda Getz
Other Chairman, The Western Wall Heritage Foundation
Personal details
Birth name Shmuel Rabinovitch
Born (1970-04-04) April 4, 1970 (age 45)
Nationality Israeli
Denomination Haredi
Residence Ezrat Torah
Parents Rabbi Chaim Yehuda and Chenka Yuta Rabinovitch
Children 7
Alma mater Kol Torah

Shmuel Rabinovitch, also spelled Rabinowitz (Hebrew: שמואל רבינוביץ‎) (born 4 April 1970, Jerusalem) is an Orthodox rabbi and Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel.[1][2] 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 the Sabbath and Jewish holidays.[3] 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.


Rabinowitz was appointed to the position of Rabbi of the Western Wall by former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and former chief rabbis of Israel[2] following the death of the Rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Meir Yehuda Getz, in 1995.

Rabbi of the Western Wall[edit]

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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6][7]

Rabinovitch has maintained rigid gender separation at the Wall, conforming to Haredi practice. In 2009, he gave authority for the police to arrest a member of Women of the Wall who was praying with a tallit (a traditional Jewish prayer shawl worn by men) and holding a Sefer Torah. The act had caused an adverse reaction from Haredi worshippers and Rabinowitz claimed "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".[6][8]

Twice a year, Rabinovitch and his assistants collect the hundreds of thousands of prayer notes placed in the Wall and bury them in the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.[9]

Escorting dignitaries[edit]

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,[10] and Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska, in 2011.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13]

Other activities[edit]

Rabinovitch is the chairman of the The Western Wall Heritage Foundation,[14] 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.[15] Rabinovitch has also headed a public commission for environmental quality, and supervision and licensing of burials in Israel.[2] He is a former vice president of the Aleh Children's Home in Jerusalem.


Rabinovitch wrote the two-volume Sheilos u'Teshuvos Shaarei Tzion, describing the many halakhic questions that have arisen at the Western Wall and other holy sites.[16] One chapter in Volume 1 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.[6]

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


  1. ^ Yoaz, Yuval (27 May 2005). "Lag Ba'omer crowds jam dilapidated holy site at Mount Meron". Haaretz. Retrieved 27 June 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c "Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz". Aleh. 2010. Retrieved 27 June 2011. 
  3. ^ Brackman, Levi (2007-09-04). "Where do all the prayer notes go?". Reuters. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  4. ^ Weizman, Steve; Shawn Pogatchnik and Ian Deitch (2008-05-02). "Irish prelates barred from Jerusalem's Western Wall". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  5. ^ "Austrian bishops barred from Jewish holy site in Jerusalem for wearing crosses". Associated Press. 2007-11-12. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  6. ^ a b c Weinstock, Yair (16 June 2011). "The Life of the 'Kotel Rabbi'". Mishpacha. Retrieved 27 June 2011. 
  7. ^ McGirk, Tim (19 March 2009). "Jerusalem Rabbi Insists the Pope Must Hide his Cross". TIME. Retrieved 27 June 2011. 
  8. ^ Weiss, Efrat (November 18, 2009). "Police arrest woman praying at Western Wall". Ynetnews. 
  9. ^ "Where Do All the Prayer Notes Go?". ABC-Australia news report. 5 September 2007. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  10. ^ "White House Photos". The White House. May 2005. Retrieved 27 June 2011. 
  11. ^ Zitun, Yoav (20 March 2011). "Sarah Palin Visits Western Wall". Ynetnews. Retrieved 27 June 2011. 
  12. ^ McGirk, Tim (2008-07-25). "Obama's Private Prayer Leaked". TIME. 
  13. ^ "Rabbi Condemns Release of Purported Obama Prayer Note". CNN. 27 July 2008. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  14. ^ Wagner, Matthew (13 February 2007). "Kotel rabbi protests Masorti services". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 27 June 2011. 
  15. ^ "About Us". The Western Wall Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 27 June 2011. 
  16. ^ "Book Review: Sefer Shaarei Tzion, Volume 2". Hamodia, June 21, 2012, p. C2.


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

External links[edit]