Israeli gov't opposes court-ordered egalitarian section at Western Wall

Progressive groups petitioned the court to handle government accountability regarding the egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall.

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July 18, 2017 17:26
2 minute read.
Reform Jews Western Wall

Reform Jews pray at new Western Wall egalitarian section. (photo credit: Y.R)

 
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The state has called on the High Court of Justice to refrain from ordering the establishment of an egalitarian section at the main plaza of the Western Wall, arguing that planned renovations to the existing egalitarian section at Robinson’s Arch will suffice.

The state’s position was outlined on Tuesday in its response to a petition from the progressive Jewish movements and the Women of the Wall organization, demanding that either the cabinet decision from January 2016 be implemented or that a section for progressive Jewish prayer be created at the main Western Wall site.

The line of argument outlined by the state has been expected since the indefinite suspension of the 2016 resolution to create a state-recognized egalitarian prayer space at the Robinson’s Arch site at the southern end of the Western Wall.

At the time, government minister Tzachi Hanegbi told The Jerusalem Post that significant refurbishments to the Robinson’s Arch site would substitute for the 2016 agreement, would make the site a more suitable place of prayer, and would fend off High Court intervention.

According to the state’s response to the High Court petition, the Prime Minister’s Office is investing NIS 19.2 million in upgrading and developing the current egalitarian prayer platform which will closely resemble the physical upgrades planned under the original resolution but without the shared entrance that was a key demand of the progressive Jewish movements and WoW.


The site will be managed by the state-run Company for the Development of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, and a steering committee under the control of representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office will provide oversight to ensure that the relevant services are being provided to visitors.

An additional NIS 2.2m. per year will be provided by the PMO to fund various facilities and services required at the site.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the head of the Reform Movement in Israel, rejected the idea that the upgrades are a fitting substitute for the 2016 agreement, noting that it would not be a state-recognized holy place and therefore relegates non-Orthodox Jews to the status of “second- class Jews.”

Yizhar Hess, director of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel, said that the government had lost its moral claim to be the nationstate of the Jewish people, and WoW chairwoman Anat Hoffman said that the organization “is not buying the substitute Kotel agreement that the state is trying to sell to the Supreme Court.”

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