A host of eminent archeologists spoke out on Tuesday against the government resolution to create a large, government-recognized pluralist prayer area at the southern end of the Western Wall due to the harm it would do to the archeological garden at the site.

The archeologists were speaking in a hearing of the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports committee during which they questioned the authority of the government to approve the large-scale changes required to create the proposed prayer section. […]

At the end of the hearing, committee chairman and Shas MK Yaakov Margi issued a statement on behalf of the committee although no vote was taken on it and the majority of MKs disagreed with it.

Margi’s statement said that the committee “had arrived at the conclusion that the current platform was done without the appropriate permits and in contravention of the Law for Archeology and the laws for planning and construction.”

It also called on the Reform Movement and the Women of the Wall “to reject any solution that will grossly violate the Law of Archaeology and the laws of construction.”

Women of the Wall chairwoman Anat Hoffman, who was also present at the hearing, objected to Margi’s statement, saying that “he obviously wrote it on his kitchen table last night,” and pointing to the fact that four of the six MKs present had not supported his position.

She also argued that the debate had not been “a candid attempt by the education committee to educate itself on the issue,” and said that only archeological opponents of the proposal had been present and none of those who supported the deal when the negotiations regarding the site were underway.