Court postpones West Bank synagogue razing after activists vow to fight
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Court postpones West Bank synagogue razing after activists vow to fight

As protesters hole up in building and threaten violence, legal body gives police two-week extension to complete Givat Ze’ev demolition

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Activists standing on a rooftop at the Ayelet Hashahar synagogue in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze'ev, north of Jerusalem, November 4, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Activists standing on a rooftop at the Ayelet Hashahar synagogue in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze'ev, north of Jerusalem, November 4, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday evening extended the demolition order of a West Bank synagogue compound by two weeks, as hundreds of protesters blockaded themselves inside the structure in the settlement of Givat Ze’ev on Wednesday to block its razing.

The demolition, originally scheduled for Thursday, was extended by the Supreme Court on Wednesday night by two weeks

Police had requested a postponement amid fears of clashes. The court said the request was unjustified, but granted it anyway given “operational needs,” according to an official statement.

Border police started surrounding the Ayelet Hashahar Synagogue in the settlement northwest of Jerusalem Wednesday ahead of the planned demolition.

The protesters said they were prepared to fight the security forces and even plan to use weapons against officers to stop the demolition, according to the Walla news site.

“Until now we have been fighting with kid gloves, but when everyone is against us we won’t stop at anything. If there is no choice, we will even use violence,” said David Harush, a synagogue official.

“We have gas canisters, masks, and anything we need to stop the destruction,” another protester said.

Channel 10 reporter Roy Sharon said he was attacked Wednesday by protesters while visiting the complex.

Fearing a violent response from the protesters, particularly in light of the ongoing security situation, police have asked the Supreme Court to postpone the demolition. The court on Wednesday evening ruled that the structure must be demolished no later than November 17.

In 2014, following a seven-year legal battle, the court ruled that the synagogue was built on privately owned Palestinian land and must be demolished.

The petition against the synagogue was originally brought by the non-government group Yesh Din, which claimed the documents relating to the purchase of the property were forged.

Last week the Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch appeal to save the synagogue, ordering its demolition by Thursday.

Overnight Tuesday protesters defaced the Supreme Court building protesting the decision.

“You don’t destroy a synagogue, we want a Jewish state,” graffiti sprayed on the building read.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked described the vandalism at the Supreme Court as “crossing a moral boundary.”

“Vandalism is not acceptable, even when the issue is disputed. Disgracing public institutions does not promote any goal and only deserves condemnation,” she said.

Posting on Twitter, former justice minister Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni said the vandalism was symptomatic of a weak government response to recent antagonism against the court.

“Yogev’s D-9, the threats against Judge Fogelman, the silence of the government and the person at its head regarding the disrespect for the rule of law: the writing has been on the wall for a long time and one does not need graffiti for that,” she wrote.

The Supreme Court came under fire last month after a decision to freeze the demolitions of houses of the families of terrorists.

Jewish Home Knesset Member Moti Yogev said Vogelman had “placed himself on the side of [Israel’s] enemies,” and in July Yogev recommended that the Supreme Court be “bulldozed” for a ruling ordering the state to demolish illegal Jewish homes in the settlement of Beit El

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had also expressed dissatisfaction over the court system’s delaying of measures against terrorists and their families, he distanced himself from the comments following a public outcry against Yogev.

“The judiciary does not side with our enemies. It is the very foundation of our existence and the cornerstone of our values,” Netanyahu said Tuesday, during a memorial service for slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

 

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