Israeli government declares: Western Wall deal cancelled

State attorney tells high court State considers deal to expand Reform section at Western Wall 'null and void'.

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Gary Willig,

Reform Jews praying in Jerusalem (illustrative)
Reform Jews praying in Jerusalem (illustrative)
Yossi Zeliger/FLASH90

A plan to alter the Western Wall Plaza and give the Reform movement partial authority over a portion of the site has officially been cancelled, the State declared Sunday.

The announcement was made during a hearing by an expanded panel of seven Supreme Court justices which was held in response to a series of petitions concerning the Western Wall layout plan Sunday morning, Behadrei Haredim reported.

At the start of the hearing, Attorney Dr. Yuval Roitman, who represented the State, said that "the State's approach is that although the outline constitutes a worthy attempt, which the Attorney General believed would constitute a valid solution for all parties to put an end to this matter, we are not yet there. Therefore, the State considers the outline to be null and void."

Roitman added: "Even though there are petitions in the court, and although their request for an interim injunction was rejected, the Women of the Wall and the like are working with physical force all the time to bring Torah scrolls into the upper square, and this creates irregularities and problems.

Five petitions were submitted to the Supreme Court, most of which ask the judges to enforce the plan, which was suspended last year by a government decision.

Some of the petitions ask the Court to order the government to cancel the outline, due to legal flaws that the petitioners claim disqualify it.

According to the plan, the southern Western Wall plaza, which is set aside for non-traditional prayer services, would be raised to a height matching the main plaza, and the entrance will be from the main gate, similar to the main prayer area.

Leaders of the Reform Movement in the United States and members of the small but vocal “Women of the Wall” group in Israel had for years demanded Israel set aside space at the Western Wall for non-traditional religious groups wishing to hold mixed-gender prayer services.

An additional clause in the Western Wall plan, which aroused great anger among the religious and haredi public, gives the Reform and Conservative movements official status in the management of the southern plaza.

The plan was approved by government decision, but following pressure from the haredi parties and the National Union Party, its implementation was frozen by another government decision which aimed to preserve the status quo on religion and state both with regards to prayer at the Western Wall and the non-recognition of non-traditional Jewish movements. The petitioners who demand the outline be maintained argue that the government's decision to freeze the plan constitutes a breach of a binding governmental promise.

In the course of the discussion, Women of the Wall's prayers also arose. President Hayut noted that according Western Wall rules, it is forbidden to bring in Torah scrolls from outside, and she asked, "Why should women not be allowed to use the Torah scrolls that are available to the worshipers?" The State representative replied, "The Torah scrolls are in the men's section."








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