Oasis in a War Zone
A decorative acoustical wall at the back of each courtroom resembles a traditional wall in Arab homes, where one can see out but not in. As Paul Goldberger of the New York Times described it, "the sharpness of the Mediterranean architectural tradition and the dignity of the law are here married with remarkable grace."
Outside the Courtrooms
The library constitutes one of the most important parts of the building. Its primacy is made apparent by its prominent location at the formal entrance, by its unusual curved book shelves, and by its scope. It holds centuries of legal records encompassing the principles of social justice and moral values.
The library's first level is meant for use by lawyers, the second floor for justices, and the third for retired justices. None are allowed on other than their designated floors to avoid suspicion of possible collusion.
The cloistered courtyard of the Supreme Court is made exclusively of native stone brought from the southern town of Mitzpe Ramon. It takes its inspiration from the courtyard of the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem, with a combination of Middle Eastern and Western architectural traditions.
The serene courtyard is bisected by a narrow channel of water, meant to recall the desert where the law was given to Moses. According to the architects, "the stone quarried from the earth and the water reflecting the sky juxtapose the biblical symbols of truth and justice."
The Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority in Israel. Its rulings are binding not only on all lower courts, but on all persons. This high court can hear appeals from judgment of district courts in civil and criminal proceedings. The court is also empowered to review the legality of acts and decisions of state and local institutions, as well as bodies and persons fulfilling public duties under law.
In addition, the Supreme Court hears petitions by the inhabitants of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip against actions by Israeli authorities.
In his New York Times article about the building, Paul Goldberger remarked, "With the completion of the Supreme Court, Israel, a nation which has shown little in architectural leadership, has produced a building which can stand as an example to the world of the potential of public works to reflect a culture's highest aspirations."
Lili Eylon is a freelance writer based in Jerusalem and a contributing editor to ArchitectureWeek.