High Court asks state to reconsider Kotel agreement freeze
Hearing petition by Reform and Masorti movements and Women of the Wall, Chief Justice Miriam Naor says state's handling of affair 'raises questions,' urging government to reconsider decision to halt implementation of plan to build egalitarian prayer area at the Western Wall.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Miriam Naor asked the state on Thursday what had happened to the proposed Kotel agreement, saying the government's handling of the affair was questionable.
"One can't help but ask 'What exactly happened here?' There was an agreement, they were working on it. But then the government came and said, 'There isn't one.' It raises some questions," Justice Naor said during a hearing at the High Court of Justice on a petition by the Reform and Masorti movements as well as Women of the Wall asking the court to either intercede to implement the Kotel agreement—intended to create an new egalitarian prayer area for all faiths and genders—or to provide petitioners with someplace else to pray at the Wall.
In its response to the petition, the state said that while the agreement has yet to be implemented, efforts will be made to create different avenues to satisfy the petitioners' demands.
"Should the freezing of the agreement not be worthy of reconsideration, in light of everything we've heard?" Naor asked the State Attorney's representative. "Freezing it took place in the midst of legal proceedings into the matter. Can the government consider returning to the agreement?"
"The government has decided to stay implementation," replied the advocate on behalf of the state. "We'll pass it on to the relevant party."
"You should also examine whether it's within our power to enforce the agreement," Justice Hanan Melcer added.
Women of the Wall Chairwoman Anat Hoffman attended the High Court discussion. "Justice Naor says the agreement is smart, respectful, deep and proper. It comes off well. What doesn't come off well? Values such as pluralism, equality and tolerance."
"This thing has been dragging on for the past 28 years," Hoffman lamented. "And the only question is whether I can take my prayer shawl and pray with the Women of the Wall just like I have been doing for 28 years, and do so without getting beaten up or spat on. Whether I can have my own place or not. Israel must have more than one way of being a Jewish man or woman."
Hoffman also addressed the influence the forthcoming decision will have on world Jewry. "They consider the Wall story to encapsulate how they're viewed," she said. "They're asking why while they defend Israel against BDS and its other enemies abroad, when they come to Israel they're spat on, beaten and aren't allowed to wear a prayer shawl, sound the shofar and read the Torah."