Shas Spiritual Leader Calls to Refuse to Demolish Synagogue Built on Palestinian Land

Senior Mizrahi rabbis sign letter calling not to carry out High Court order to destroy illegally built synagogue in Givat Ze’ev by Nov. 17.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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People pray at the Ayelet Hashahar synagogue in Givat Ze'ev, November 2015.
The Ayelet Hashahar synagogue in Givat Ze'ev, November 2015.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Rabbi Shalom Cohen, the head of Council of Torah Sages of Shas, along with other prominent Mizrahi rabbis signed a letter calling on soldiers and police officers to refuse to carry out orders and not participate in the demolition of a synagogue in the settlement of Givat Ze’ev, north of Jerusalem. The High Court of Justice has ordered that the Ayalet Hashahar synagogue be demolished by next Tuesday, November 17, because it was built on private Palestinian land and without proper building permits.

The synagogue is supposed to be demolished in the next few days after the court granted the government numerous postponements.

Supporters gathered in the synagogue Tuesday evening to prevent the demolition following rumors that the police were on their way to demolish the building, although nothing happened.

The letter was organized by the Derech Chaim movement of Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh and settlers from Yitzhar. In addition to Cohen, the signatories include a number of senior Sephardi rabbis including yeshiva heads such as Rabbi Shlomo Arush and Rabbi Meir Mazuz, as well as the chief rabbi of Safed Shmuel Eliyahu. A number of Ashkenazi rabbis also signed the letter including Ginsburgh, the head of the yeshiva in the settlement of Yitzhar; Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzhal, the rabbi of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem; and Rabbi David Hai Cohen from Bat Yam.

“The Ayelet Hasahar synagogue in Givat Ze’ev is facing destruction,” wrote the rabbis. “This is an act forbidden by our holy Torah.”

They wrote that even a decision by the government does not change this serious prohibition which is “a desecration of God’s name,” and even if a king gives an order to violate a commandment, he is not to be listened to.

They promise that anyone who refuses to carry out this sin will be blessed and “succeed in all their ways.”

The rabbis also appealed to non-Jewish police officers: “Members of other peoples who work for the police should avoid harming the holy things of Israel – and will receive a blessing from the God of Abraham, the father of many nations,” they wrote.