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Israeli Chief Rabbinate: Supreme Court Lacks Jurisdiction Over Western Wall

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Chief Rabbinate said the country’s Supreme Court lacks the jurisdiction to rule on the “intrareligious” struggle involving egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall.

In a 166-page brief filed Tuesday with the Supreme Court, the Chief Rabbinate said in part, “The courts are not the appropriate tribunal to decide if Jewish law can be changed and the holy sites can be desecrated.”

The brief said the court does not have the authority to make decisions on the topic of religion, and noted that it would not attempt to make religious decisions for Israel’s Muslim and Christian communities. It added that the case is about advancing government and feminist issues, not freedom of religion.

The brief also noted that all decisions of a religious nature involving holy sites have been decided by religious leaders, not the courts, since the beginning of the British Mandate.

Filed in the name of the country’s two chief rabbis, the brief is responding to a petition filed with the Supreme Court by the liberal Jewish movements in Israel and the Women of the Wall calling for the implementation of a government agreement to expand and upgrade the egalitarian prayer section at the southern end of the Western Wall.

In June, the Cabinet suspended the deal passed in 2016 as a result of negotiations between the Reform and Conservative movements, the Women of the Wall, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government.

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