Press Release High Court decision on the religious status of Western Wall tunnels

A hearing was held on Wednesday, March 22 following Emek Shaveh’s petition to regulate the sanctity of the “Western Wall tunnels.” Judges Rubinstein, Meltzer and Baron decided to reject the petition and leave the status of the Western Wall Tunnels as a Jewish sacred site in place. However, the judges ruled that the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation must ensure that those sections of the tunnels that are holy to Muslims and Christians are properly managed, both in terms of protecting the antiquities and in terms of ensuring access and enabling worship for members of other religions. In view of the High Court’s decision, Emek Shaveh considers it necessary to convene a ministerial committee that will approve any excavations in the Western Wall Tunnels as required by the Antiquities Law in Holy Places.


Immediately after the ruling, Emek Shaveh issued a demand to the Israel Antiquities Authority to cease the excavations until approval is granted by a ministerial committee. We believe that excavations in a sensitive area such as the tunnels of the Old City should be implemented only as a result of a decision by the highest echelons, as required by law: a committee that will include the Minister of Culture, the Minister of Religious Affairs and the Minister of Justice.


In conclusion, we in Emek Shaveh claim that the vagary surrounding the Western Wall tunnels which are being continuously excavated beneath the Muslim Quarter and alongside the Western Wall is irresponsible and potentially dangerous. It is unacceptable to define this site as a holy place on some occasions and then when convenient to define it as an ordinary archaeological excavation at other times.

To read the ruling (in Hebrew): click here.

Background on the petition: here and here.