Supreme Court: Gaza Synagogues to be Destroyed

Contrary to most rabbinic opinions, Israel's High Court has decided that the synagogues in Gaza must be destroyed, after Halakhic arrangements have been made to void them of their sanctity.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 10:23


The decision does not include the synagogues of the small communities Tel Katifa and Slav, which are located in mobile structures and will be relocated. Two other synagogues - in Bdolach, and the Yemenit synagogue in N'vei Dekalim - are to be considered for full or partial relocation.

A three-justice panel, comprised of Justices Elyakim Rubenstein, Edmond Levy and Dorit Beinish, made the decision. The judges considered the opinions of a line of leading rabbis, and rejected most of them.

Former Chief Rabbis Avraham Shapira, Mordechai Eliyahu, Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, Ovadiah Yosef, and Shlomo Amar were among those quoted, as were Rabbis Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg, Dov Lior and Sha'ul Katzin of New York.

Arutz-7's Ruti Avraham reports that most of the rabbis are of the opinion that the synagogues should be left standing, and that protection by international bodies must be obtained. Rabbi Lior wrote that if the Israeli government destroys synagogues, this would leave a "serious negative impression in the world."

Rabbi Katzin as well, who heads the Sephardic Congregations in New York, noted that it is not only forbidden to destroy synagogues, but that "if Jews [do so], how can we ask non-Jews around the world not to do the same?"

Judges Rubenstein and Beinish rejected this position, stating that from a practical standpoint, "the Palestinians have not proven that they stand by their agreements, and the abandoned synagogues are liable to be desecrated." Rubenstein noted the Arab desecration of Joseph's Tomb in Shechem, as well as the "regretful situation of the past years regarding law and order maintained by a central authority in the Palestinian Authority, even if there are now those who express hope for a change."

Justice Levy took a different position, criticizing the government for its passive approach in this matter: "Who if not the Israeli government should have tried every way to avoid the destruction of the synagogues... If there is any substance to the declared intention of those who initiated the unilateral evacuation to create a new climate that will lead to a process that will enable two nations to live in peace and neighborly relations, then preserving holy sites should be a clear objective of the Palestinian Authority as well... to show that it is really bent on peace."

Judge Levy also wrote that the Jews of the world are permitted to demand the preservation of the synagogues in Gush Katif, "not only because of their sanctity, but also to remind all of history, until the end of the generations, of the great sacrifice made by the State of Israel the moment a glimmer of hope for a political arrangement began to emerge."