Israel Supreme Court

September 24th 2013

From 1948 until 1992, Israel’s Supreme Court met in a rented building in the Russian Compound near the Old City of Jerusalem. In 1984, the Rothschild Foundation donated money to the State of Israel to design and construct a permanent structure to house Israel’s Supreme Court.

Located in Kiryat David Ben Gurion adjacent to the Knesset (Israel’s legislative branch), the Supreme Court building was designed to express the values of justice, law and righteousness. Daily guided tours are offered in English and reveal numerous biblical and Jewish historical influences in the design of the building, which was dedicated in 1992.

The central area of the building is called “The Gatehouse” and is both the formal entrance and the location of a three-story law library. Within the law library is a pyramid, meant to evoke the Second Temple period of Jewish history.

Another highlight is the Courtyard of the Arches, flanked by the administrative wing of the Supreme Court on one side and the Justices’ chambers on the other. Inspired by a verse from Psalm 85, “Truth will spring up from the earth and justice will be reflected from the heavens,” the stone courtyard features a narrow channel of water running through it. The architects intended to represent the solidity of law with the stone, quarried from the desert, and to symbolize justice by the sky which is reflected in the water channel below.

The Supreme Court building has five courtrooms of various sizes, each inspired by synagogues from the Talmudic period (200 to 600 CE). Entrances to the courtrooms represent the stone gates of the city in which judges sat during the biblical period. The courtrooms are naturally lit by skylights. Lawyers sit in a semi-circle facing the judges, while members of the press and defendants have their own dedicated seating areas in each courtroom. The public is welcome to attend nearly all court proceedings, and ample seating is provided.

The Supreme Court building is connected to the Knesset to the south by a passageway through the Wohl Rose Garden. Distinct entrances can also be accessed from the north, east and west.