Does Jewish Law Permit the Demolition of a Synagogue?

Despite Defense Ministry budget, Rabbinate approval, Givat Ze'ev rejects new synagogue to replace one demolished by Court.

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Eliran Aharon,

Ayelet Ha'Shahar Synagogue in Givat Ze'ev
Ayelet Ha'Shahar Synagogue in Givat Ze'ev
Eliran Aharon

Over a month ago, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau received a special query regarding the High Court's decision to demolish the synagogue in Judea-Samaria area community Givat Ze'ev. 

The Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), headed by Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, asked the rabbi what steps should be taken in cases in which the High Court orders the destruction of sacred Jewish places, such as a synagogue. 

Rabbi Lau realized it would be impossible to reverse a court ruling and came to the conclusion that it is permissible to destroy a synagogue, but only if another synagogue is built in its stead. 

"I suggest that before demolition takes place, an alternative will be provided to worshippers and another building will be designated for prayers," Rabbi Lau declared. 

Throughout the past year, and particularly in response to Rabbi Lau's halachic ruling, the Civil Administration has called on the Defense Ministry to implement such a plan in Givat Ze'ev. 

Arutz Sheva has learned that Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon approved a budget of several hundred thousand shekels to build another synagogue in a different part of Givat Ze'ev, but that the community has refused to accept the offer. 

Sources from the Chief Rabbinate revealed Thursday that numerous solutions were rejected by the Givat Ze'ev Regional Council. 

"Someone fell asleep. They thought the demolition wouldn't happen and the High Court's decision would be delayed," one source said. 

"There were many alternatives to build a synagogue in another parts of the town, but these suggestions encountered resistance from Givat Ze'ev, despite the fact that the Defense Ministry allocated resources to set up an alternative structure before demolition."

"We regret the Hight Court's decision to demolish a sacred place, but we also regret that any alternative was rejected by the Regional Council of Givat Ze'ev," the Rabbinate sources said. 

The Givat Ze'ev Regional Council did not respond to Arutz Sheva's request for comment.