State Tells High Court Kosel Plan Unnecessary

YERUSHALAYIM -
The egalitarian section at the Kosel.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Netanyahu government presented its argument to the High Court Tuesday that planned renovations at the existing egalitarian section at Robinson’s Arch will make any further changes at the Kosel unnecessary.

The state’s argument, made in response to demands from Reform and Conservative groups and Women of the Wall that the Court intervene to secure them an improved site or a share of the main Kosel area, has been expected since the Cabinet voted to suspend a plan it had previously supported in January 2016.

The state said Tuesday that the Prime Minister’s Office has allocated 19.2 million shekels to upgrade the current egalitarian prayer site, and that it will be almost the equivalent of the previous scheme. However, it omits the shared entrance to the Kosel that had been promised.

The is to be managed by the state-run Company for the Development of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Yerushalayim, and a steering committee under the control of representatives from the PMO will provide oversight to ensure that the relevant services are being provided to visitors.

Another 2.2 million shekels per year will be set aside to pay for the facilities and services at the site.

The reaction of the Reform leadership was predictably negative. The head of the Reform movement in Israel, Gilad Kariv, said the new proposal would not be a state-recognized holy place and therefore relegates non-Orthodox Jews to the status of “second-class Jews.”

Charedi MKs have said in the wake of the suspension of the Kosel plan that if the Court decides to intervene on behalf of the Reform groups, they expect the coalition will pass a bill circumventing the Court.