Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch.
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch. Photo by Yaron Kaminsky
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Michal Fattal
The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. Photo by Michal Fattal

Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites in Israel, took his family during Holocaust Remembrance Day, late last month, on a private visit to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, Israel Channel 10 News reported late Wednesday.

The zoo is closed to the public on Yom Hashoah but was opened especially for Rabinovitch, his children and grandchildren, the channel reported. The visit, which was held at Rabinovitch’s request, included a guided tour, access to places that are normally closed to the public and feeding sessions for some animals.

Zoo administrators told Channel 10 News that Rabinovitch “has helped the zoo a lot, we wanted to give him and his family a tour behind the scenes, which can be held only on days when it is closed to the public.”

The rabbi’s office confirmed the visit, but said it was “in the afternoon, toward the end of Holocaust Day.”

Associates of Rabinovitch noted that while the zoo was closed to the public, classes and other activities were held and it was not opened especially for the rabbi. This could not be confirmed with the zoo on Wednesday evening.

Officially, ultra-Orthodox rabbis oppose visits to the zoo because it is open on the Sabbath. But on weekdays the site is popular with Haredi families, and in recent years visits have been held for ultra-Orthodox children.

Zoo officials attribute these visits largely to Rabinovitch’s close ties with the zoo management.