During the first hearing in the case regarding the Jewish holy site, the Israeli Supreme Court criticized the state for suddenly freezing the Western Wall agreement in June. While the state is arguing that the agreement is “complicated,” the judges appear unhappy with the government’s decision.

Women of the Wall members at the Kotel

Women of the Wall members at the Kotel Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

The Israeli Supreme Court began discussing today (Thursday) the Women of the Wall organization’s petition against the government’s suspension of the Kotel agreement in June. During the hearing, the judges, including Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, harshly criticized the state. “You conducted negotiations, you reached an agreement [and then] during the legal proceedings, you paused and said, ‘we’re freezing it,'” Naor said to the state representatives. “You will need to explain why you went back on the agreement that was approved,” added Justice Hanan Melcer.

“To our understanding, this agreement does not reflect a legal commitment,” the attorneys for the state claimed. “We tried to reach an agreement that is acceptable to all sides. We went for a complicated agreement but there’s a lot of sensitivity there.” In response, Naor agreed that during the negotiations, the stated goal was to reach an agreed and respected solution. “But you suddenly froze it,” she added. “After all, there are legal proceedings; it’s not just when and how you want.”

“For two years, a team sat and compiled an agreement—we do not plan to make another agreement,” Naor clarified. “We have legal questions…We are asking the state: is it not appropriate to reconsider what is being called the suspension of the agreement?”

Women of the Wall members praying

Women of the Wall members praying Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

“There was an agreement, people worked on it, and then the government came and suddenly it doesn’t exist. This raises questions,” she added. In response, a state representative said that the agreement was only suspended, not canceled completely.  

Prior to the hearing, WOW chairwoman Anat Hoffman said that her organization is asking the court to put an end to the Haredi monopoly over the Western Wall. “The extremist minority has kidnapped the Kotel from the Israeli public and turned it into a Haredi synagogue,” she stated. “We want to return the Kotel to every man and every woman.”