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The Israel Supreme Court

Rarely does a manifesto or philosophical treatise serve as a fitting guideline for a work of art.

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The Supreme Court

Rarely does a manifesto or philosophical treatise serve as a fitting guideline for a work of art. Usually, raping form so that it will prove a thesis leaves one - at least in architecture - with a product that is hardly usable, rarely comfortable, where form and function follow excess verbosity.


Not so the Supreme Court.


The Supreme Court moved into its current home in 1992, from its Russian Compound location, where it existed for 44 years. Planned by the brother-sister architect duo of Ram and Ada Carmi, and erected through a donation by Dorothea De-Rothschild, it is richly but sparingly adorned with antiques, such as the ancient Hamat Gader synagogue mosaic A guided tour of this striking edifice is a tour into the minds of its planners who leaned heavily on the Bible and the precepts of Jewish thought in guiding their fashion, somehow managing to unite the disparate, rounding the square, if you will.


The first thing one notice as one walks into the entrance foyer of the Supreme Court building, is the narrow staircase leading -as it were - into the sky. A Jerusalem stone wall on one side, and a bare flat wall on the other, it symbolizes the aspiration from the land (laws) towards the heavens (justice). This same theme is repeated in the visual leitmotif of straight lines (''Your laws are straight,'' Psalms 119:113) and circles (''He leads me in the circles of Justice,'' Psalms 23:3).


The sky is a major presence in the courthouse, since skylight plays a predominant role, nullifying the need for artificial lighting, except when the sun goes down. The circular library - open to the public - opens on to a pyramid, through which light streams down through circular windows; the vast foyer, which leads into the five austere courtrooms (the largest in the middle, the smallest on the sides), is in a constant state of change, thanks to the changing shadows thrown onto the walls by the shifting sun; and the entire structure opens onto the Courtyard of the Arches - reminiscent of the courtyard of the Rockefeller Museum - down whose centre flows an artificial spring (''Truth will spring up from the earth'' Psalms 85:12).


The courtrooms are simple and elegant, the judges and lawyers seated along two tables that between them form a circle. The chambers of the 13 judges (2 of whom are temporary, and six - including the president - of whom are women) are off-limits, with easy access directly into the courtrooms. And the building is conveniently situated between the Knesset (Israel's parliament, to which there is a dedicated walkway through the Rose Wahl Rose Garden) and the site of the future Prime Minister's office and residence - thus the judicial branch serving as a mediator between the executive branch and the legislative.


Not to be missed is the museum, which displays a collection of artefacts collected over the years from the Turkish period of rule, through the British Mandate period and to the present day. A video presentation explains the workings of the court as the country's highest court of appeal and its additional function as the High Court of Justice, to which people or entities may appeal against a government institution.


Guided tours in English every day at 12 noon. Tel: +972-2-675-9612.


The article is courtesy of the Jerusalem Tourism Authority


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