Residents of Jerusalem Suburb Build Synagogue on Land Slated for Separation Fence

Police, municipality not dealing with Mevasseret Zion site, say it’s beyond their jurisdiction.

The synagogue in Mevasseret Zion.
Emil Salman

Residents of Mevasseret Zion, a suburb of Jerusalem, have built a synagogue without permits on land expropriated for the purpose of building the separation fence. The synagogue is located just over the Green Line in the West Bank, northwest of and just outside Jerusalem.

The Sulam Yaakov (Jacob’s Ladder) synagogue operates in a trailer set up a few months ago. The synagogue is located on land seized for building the separation barrier between the West Bank and Israel, and is next to the road used by security forces for patroling the fence. To reach the synagogue, worshippers must pass through a gate that used to have signs warning they are entering a military area. The gate used to be locked, but in recent months it has been left open and the signs were removed.

The land is located between the Palestinian villages of Beit Iksa and Beit Suriq. The land is not privately owned, but part of it had been farmed by Palestinians before the separation barrier was built.

Correspondence from the Mevasseret Zion local council shows the synagogue was connected to electricity illegally, then disconnected a month ago as a result of complaints by residents. Since then, however, the trailer was reconnected to electricity and has continued to operate without interference.

Local residents complained to the local authority and the police, but were told the structure is outside the municipal boundaries of Mevasseret – and neither the police or the local council have the authority to act there. Residents also turned to the IDF’s Civil Administration in the West Bank about the matter, and MK Esawi Freige (Meretz) also asked a parliamentary question about the synagogue, but have yet to receive a reply from the Defense Ministry.

A local resident who asked to remain anonymous said the local council and its inspectors, as well as the planning and building committee, all say the area is not their responsibility as it is part of the West Bank. The local police also said the synagogue is located in the West Bank, and outside their area of authority, he said.

Two weeks ago the government dismantled the Ayelet Hashahar synagogue in Givat Ze’ev because it was built illegally without building permits on private Palestinian land. In order to prevent violence and confrontations, the government allocated alternative land for rebuilding the synagogue.