Illegally Built Synagogue in West Bank Settlement to Be Replaced in Compromise Deal

The synagogue, built on private Palestinian land, was supposed to be demolished Tuesday, but state says its demolition by force would 'lead to bloodshed.'

Protesters at Ayelet Hashahar synagogue in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze'ev, November 2015.
Olivier Fitoussi

A settlement synagogue that is due to be demolished Thursday will be replaced by a state-funded structure, according to an agreement reached Monday.

The Ayelet Hashahar synagogue in Givat Ze'ev, just north of Jerusalem, was built on privately-owned Palestinian land and without building permits. It is due to be demolished Tuesday by order of the High Court of Justice.

The State Prosecutor’s Office petitioned the High Court last night to postpone the demolition, after the state reached a compromise agreement with the synagogue's rabbi and worshippers. Under the agreement, the dismantling of the synagogue will be begin tomorrow and it will be replaced by a legal structure on a nearby site.

The synagogue was supposed to be demolished Tuesday, but the Supreme Court approved the state's request to push it to Thursday no later than 3 P.M.

“The demolition of the synagogue using force will lead to bloodshed,” the state argued in its petition. The court has not yet ruled on the petition.

The estimated 5.2 million shekels ($1.34 million) cost of the new synagogue will be covered by the state.

The synagogue was originally scheduled for demolition in July 2012, but the deadline has been postponed several times.

Rabbi Azriel Cohen and local council head Yossi Avrhami agreed that the various auxiliary buildings around the synagogue will be demolished Tuesday, while dismantling of the synagogue will start tomorrow and take no more than 21 days.

The compromise was reached in a meeting convened by the prime minister with ministers, Dery, Bennett and Ya'alon.

Rabbi Cohen said that once the new building was arranged they would evacuate the synagogue and allow it to be dismantled. He added that according to Jewish law a synagogue cannot be destroyed or abandoned before a new and better one exists to replace it.

The IDF’s Civil Administration is responsible for demolishing the buildings, while the Jerusalem police are responsible for providing security. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people who oppose the demolition are staying in the synagogue for now, in an attempt to prevent the demolition.