The Kotel Agreement is back in headlines as one of the largest panels of Supreme Court Justices ever readies to hear the case. WOW and fellow organizations (Reform and Masorti Movements as well as North American Federations) get their day in court on Sunday, January 14th, 2018 at 9am. In a rare decision, the Court approved presenting a video of violence and disturbances to WOW prayers during the hearing.
The expanded panel is convened following a hearing in August 31st, in which then Chief Justice Miriam Naor demanded the state provide explanations as to why the Court cannot force the state to implement the Kotel Agreement, a compromise the state itself had initiated and approved.
The panel will be headed by Chief Justice Esther Hayut (who was sworn in October 2017 following the retirement of former Chief Justice Miriam Naor). Alsop presiding will be Justices Hanan Melcer and Yoram Danziger, who heard arguments in August, as well as Justices Neal Hendel, Uzi Fogelman, Yitzchak Amit and Noam Solberg.
WOW’s position is that any solution should be according to the main principals of the Kotel Agreement:
A respectable and accessible prayer plaza which is an integral part of the Kotel, legally (as will be stated in the Holy Places by Law), physically (common entry and visibility from the Kotel upper plaza), and publicly.
In case of legal cancellation of the agreement, WOW requests a third prayer plaza in the main (northern) plaza, in which WOW worshipers will be able to pray according to their customs, without any harassment and disruption.
In case a third prayer plaza is allotted, petitioners request representation in the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, in order to fairly manage the third plaza.
WOW Chairperson Anat Hoffman: “Cancelling the Kotel Agreement was an act of cowardice by the Prime Minister who lacks the political power to implement his own cabinet’s decision. It is shameful that in the Jewish Homeland, some Jews are considered “less than”. We look to the Supreme Court to de-segregate the Kotel and to ensure freedom of religion for all.”
About the Kotel Agreement:
Following a 3-year-negotiation, the Kotel Agreement was approved by the Israeli cabinet on January 31, 2016, by a 15 to 5 majority. The agreement stated that a third prayer section be established, designated for Women of the Wall and pluralistic movements’ prayers. According to the agreement, the new egalitarian plaza (currently a scaffolding-based platform) will be developed into a respectable prayer venue. The egalitarian plaza would governed by representatives of the movements who would be praying there, and not by the ultra-Orthodox Western Wall Heritage Foundation, who controls the traditional women and men’s prayer plazas. Also stated in the Agreement, is a common entrance to all prayer plazas with clear signage, to enable any worshiper a true choice of where to pray.
The agreement was voided by a cabinet vote on June 25th, 2017. Reneging the Agreement sent shock waves through the Jewish world, and caused a rift between Israel and World Jews, 90 percent of which are non-Orthodox. Feeling betrayed by the Israeli government they regularly support and lobby for, some have voiced their opinions in the press, in ceremonies, going as far as calling on peers to cease any support of official Israel.
The Supreme Court hearing of WOW petition will be held on January 14th, 2018 in front of an expanded panel of judges.
About Women of the Wall:
WOW is a group of religious women from all denominations (Orthodox, Conservative and Reform) who pray at the Western Wall every “Rosh Hodesh” (beginning of the month) and have been fighting for 29 years for equal rights for women at the Western Wall. The group wishes to pray according to Jewish Law (Halacha), in a group and out loud; to read from a Torah scroll; and to put on tefillin and tallit, at the section known as the Women’s Section of the Western Wall.