Shas minister: High Court has overstepped its authority on Kotel

Azoulay says his party will bring bill criminalizing progressive prayer at Western Wall at earliest opportunity.

January 12, 2017 19:32
2 minute read.
David Azoulay

David Azoulay. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Minister David Azoulay (Shas) has denounced the intervention of the High Court of Justice in the ongoing dispute over the Western Wall, and said his party has placed the highest priority on passing a bill banning progressive Jewish prayer at the site.

Azoulay’s comments come a day after the High Court gave a strong indication that it views favorably a petition demanding that women be allowed to read from a Torah at the Western Wall, which they are currently prohibited from doing.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, the minister said the court had “overstepped its authority” in intervening in matters of religious ritual, and insisted that the Western Wall could only be administered in accordance with Jewish law and the instructions of the Chief Rabbinate and the administrator of the site, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz.

In addition, Azoulay argued that the court would not hold hearings on such petitions regarding other places of worship.

“No one would ever think about going up to the Temple Mount and entering the mosque with shoes on, so if the High Court cannot instruct that one can go to the Temple Mount and enter the mosque with shoes, then the High Court also cannot impose it’s opinion in contravention of Jewish law, and the Western Wall works only in accordance with Jewish law,” Azoulay said.

“Whoever wants to come and pray can do so, the Western Wall is open, and no one has ever been refused the right to enter,” he continued. “But these women are coming to make provocations, they are not coming to pray. To pray, you need to come every day, not once a month.”

Asked about the possibility of the High Court ultimately ruling to allow women to read from the Torah at the site, he said that he did not believe the court would issue a ruling “that would cause antagonism, strife and division at the Western Wall.”

Azoulay also addressed the bill Shas has submitted to the Knesset which would ban and criminalize non-Orthodox prayer at the Western Wall, including at the Robinson’s Arch area, the proposed site for a government-recognized pluralist prayer section at the southern end of the wall.

The minister described the bill as being of “very high priority for Shas to pass,” but declined to commit to a time frame for when the legislation will be brought to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

“This law needs to pass, we just need the right opportunity to bring it up [to the Ministerial Committee] and pass it,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “has made great efforts to come to understandings” on the issue.

But he rejected any notion of implementing the government resolution, approved last year, saying, “There is only one solution; that the Western Wall be operated in accordance with Jewish law.

“We cannot allocate a section at the Western Wall to every loud, provocative group. There is [currently] a place for men and for women, but not for provocations. For provocations, people can go to Sacher Park if they like,” Azoulay said.

Related Content

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, at the Jerusalem Theater
September 18, 2019
Will Netanyahu travel to US next week to address UN, meet Trump?