Western Wall
Western WalliStock

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hold a hearing on Sunday in the long-running battle between the Israeli government and the Reform and Conservative movements concerning the fate of the Western Wall.

The court has asked the government to answer why it has not implemented a 2016 decision to expand the area allotted for non-traditional, mixed-gender prayer services at the southern end of the wall near Robinson's Arch. On Thursday, over 100 prominent Religious Zionist rabbis submitted an appeal to the court alleging that as the Western Wall is a religious site, the High Court of Justice has no authority to intervene.

The rabbis pointed out that Israeli law forbids the court from matters which involve religion or holy places due to a 1924 law passed in pre-state British-Mandate Palestine which determined that "no cause or matter in connection with the Holy Places or religious buildings or sites in Palestine or the rights or claims relating to the different religious communities in Palestine shall be heard or determined by any Court in Palestine."

The rabbis also attacked the radical Women of the Wall organization who hold monthly non-traditional services at the Western Wall - outside of the space designated for mixed-gender prayer. "The Western Wall should not be used for pushing agendas" said the letter, which was signed by some of the most senior Religious Zionist rabbis, including Rabbi Haim Druckman, Rabbi Dov Lior, Rabbi Chaim Steiner, Rabbi Tzvi Tau, Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner and Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu.

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 additional space at the Western Wall for non-traditional religious groups wishing to hold mixed-gender prayer services.

Representatives of the Reform Movement in Israel have sued the government in a bid to secure state recognition and greater integration of the existing non-tradition prayer space with the larger Western Wall Plaza. The result was a 2016 government decision to accept a compromise agreement which would include the establishment of an expanded and formally recognized non-traditional prayer space at the southern end of the Western Wall, near Robinson’s Arch.

According to the Western Wall Compromise, representatives of the Reform movement would sit on the advisory board responsible for the site - de facto recognition of the Reform and Conservative movements have long sought in Israel.

However, the cabinet froze the plan last July, leading the Reform and Conservative movements to appeal the decision in the High Court of Justice.