Attempting mixed prayer at Western Wall
Attempting mixed prayer at Western Wallצילום: Flash 90

An expanded panel of seven justices is holding a hearing today on a series of petitions concerning the Western Wall layout plan.

There are five petitions, most of which ask the judges to enforce the plan, which was suspended a few months ago by 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 will be raised to a height matching the existing one and the entrance will be from the main gate, similar to the existing one.

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."