The Supreme Court on Tuesday deferred by two days the demolition of an illegally built synagogue in the settlement of Givat Ze’ev, saying police and security personnel must begin dismantling the structure no later than 3:00 p.m. on Thursday.
The order has already been subjected to several delays due to threats of violence on the part of settler activists barricaded inside the Ayelet Hashahar synagogue, which was been ordered demolished due to its location on private Palestinian land.
On Sunday, the Israeli government struck a deal with municipal officials in Givat Ze’ev, promising to build a new house of worship once the synagogue is demolished. In addition to the new house of worship, the government also reportedly agreed to build a new sports field for Givat Ze’ev. All told, the agreement will cost approximately NIS 5.2 million ($1.3 million), the Ynet news site reported.
On Monday night, the Defense Ministry delivered a temporary replacement synagogue to Givat Ze’ev, just north of Jerusalem, ministry officials said. The trailers, which were set up in one of the settlement’s sports fields, will serve as a substitute until construction of the new synagogue is completed.
The court decision to postpone the demolition until Thursday — it had previously been scheduled for Tuesday — came following a petition from the state, which cited “intelligence from security sources that points to significant concerns if the evacuation of the synagogue is carried out without an agreement.”
The demolition order has generated fierce opposition. Protesters have barricaded themselves in the house of worship, threatening to harm themselves and security forces, and saying they are prepared to fight troops and even use weapons to stop the demolition.
The original decision on the synagogue’s illegality was handed down in 2014, following a seven-year legal battle.
The petition demanding the structure be demolished was brought to the court by the Yesh Din advocacy group for Palestinian legal rights group in 2008. The group claimed documents relating to the purchase of the land for the synagogue from its Palestinian owner were forged. While attorneys for the settlement provided the court with documentation they said proved the lawful purchase, forensic analysis ultimately proved the purchase papers were falsified.
Yesh Din on Tuesday criticized the government for delaying the demolition and agreeing to construct a new synagogue, claiming in a statement that it “sends a message to criminals in the West Bank: crime pays.” Still, it conceded the need for a compromise “in order to avert bloodshed.”