High Court to hold hearing on Western Wall agreement in July
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High Court to hold hearing on Western Wall agreement in July

Women of the Wall head says cabinet decision to freeze 2016 deal shows state has no legal arguments for delaying its implementation

Conservative Jews pray at the section prepared for prayer for the Women of the Wall at Robinson's Arch in Jerusalem's Old City on July 30, 2014. (Robert Swift/Flash90)
Conservative Jews pray at the section prepared for prayer for the Women of the Wall at Robinson's Arch in Jerusalem's Old City on July 30, 2014. (Robert Swift/Flash90)

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday said it will hear a petition on the pluralistic prayer section at the Western Wall in July, just days after the cabinet voted to freeze the deal.

The High Court also ruled that the state must present its arguments for the hearing — which is set for July 30 — by July 12, according to the Women of the Wall, which brought the petition.

Anat Hoffman, the group’s head, said that Sunday’s decision by the cabinet to put on hold the January 2016 agreement establishing a pluralistic prayer area at the Western Wall shows the state has no legal argument for continuing to delay the deal’s implementation.

“By voiding the Kotel Agreement, the State has no response to any of our legal cases. The State will no longer be able to dodge its duty to ensure women’s rights to freedom of religion at the Kotel,” she said, using the Hebrew name for the Western Wall.

Anat Hoffman, director of Women of the Wall, holds a Torah scroll at the Western Wall, November 2, 2016. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
Anat Hoffman, director of Women of the Wall, holds a Torah scroll at the Western Wall, November 2, 2016. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Attorney Orly Erez Likhovski, who is representing the group, said that Women of the Wall requested the High Court set a date for the hearing to ensure no ‘further violation’ of the group’s rights.

“The petitioners are not willing to accommodate any further violation of their rights, and insist on praying according to their custom at the Western Wall,” she said.

Sunday’s decision to freeze the agreement coincided with a High Court deadline for the state to respond to petitions on its failure to implement the agreement and construct the mixed-gender plaza near Robinson’s Arch by this week.

It also came amid pressure from Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox lawmakers to dial back the plan to establish an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, which was approved by government ministers in January 2016.

The cabinet’s decision was met with widespread dismay from liberal groups and Diaspora Jews. The Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors, took the unprecedented step on Monday of calling on the government to reverse the move.

Despite the pushback, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended the move, with an aide to the premier saying on Monday that it will in fact help push the deal forward, and that Netanyahu had no choice but to halt the agreement as a result of pressure from the ultra-Orthodox parties, whose support he needs to maintain his ruling coalition.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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