Hundreds of people gathered Monday to celebrate the opening of a new synagogue in the Bustan neighborhood of the Jewish community of Negohot in the Hevron Hills.
The synagogue, named “Mishkan Yosef” in memory of two individuals, is filled with light that streams in through windows from all directions that look out over the rocky hills that surround the building. The two men for whom the synagogue is named are Yosef Yom Tov Davidovitz, father of Natan Ben-David, founder of the Bustan neighborhood, and Yossi Shok, a resident of nearby Beit Haggai, who was murdered by terrorists four years ago as he was on his way home.
Tzviki Bar-Chai, head of the Hevron Hills Regional Council, told the crowd that gathered to accompany the Torah scrolls from their temporary dwelling in a tiny building to their new permanent home, “We are celebrating this period of the [building] freeze with construction and renewal.”
Bar-Chai's comment was a nod to the 10-month ban on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria imposed in November by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in hopes of appeasing the Obama administration and enticing the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table. The strategy failed, and negotiations have yet to resume, even in the U.S.-suggested format of “proximity talks” brokered by an American mediator.
Sagit Shok, Yossi's widow, moved the participants with her warm words of welcome, commenting that the location and the event were a victory for her husband. Natan Ben-David spoke about the strong bond his father shared with the community, and about the big step the celebration represented for Negohot. Rabbi Ram HaKohen, head of the nearby Otniel Yeshiva, and Rabbi Uzi Sharbaf also addressed the celebrants, and spoke about the deep significance of the establishment of a permanent synagogue, which was built entirely by Jewish laborers.
(Israel news photos: Danny Fanton)