Irked by Delays, Reform and Conservative Movements Seek Quick Ruling on Kotel Petition

The government, which missed a deadline on Sunday to respond in the High Court of Justice, is seeking an extension until July 27

The Western Wall in Jerusalem
Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Two days after it voted to suspend plans to build an egalitarian prayer plaza at the Western Wall, the Israeli government let the Supreme Court know that it has yet to decide where it stands on this contentious issue.

That became evident on Tuesday when the government requested yet another extension for responding to a petition submitted by the non-Orthodox movements and Women of the Wall, the feminist prayer group, demanding that it fulfill its promise to build them a special space for mixed-gender prayer at the southern expanse of the Jewish holy site, or alternatively, re-divide the existing gender-segregated area on the northern side to make room for them. 

The latest deadline for submitting its response to the petition was Sunday, the day the government voted, under pressure from its ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, to freeze the agreement. That looming deadline, which it missed, is what many observers believe forced the government to vote on suspending the deal two days ago – a move that surprised many.

The petition was submitted in September. Since then, the government has requested and received numerous extensions on its deadline for responding. When it received its last extension, though, the justices made clear that they were losing patience with the repeated delays. 

The government on Tuesday asked to have the deadline extended until July 27. The Israel Religious Action Center, which is representing the petitioners, said that it objects to any further extensions. “We stand by what we requested in our petition – the establishment of a permanent egalitarian space at the Western Wall site,” said Orly Erez Likhovsky, the attorney from IRAC handling the case.  She said that IRAC had requested that the court set a date very soon for a hearing and that it instruct the state to present its response two weeks beforehand.