Ayelet Hashahar Synagogue
Ayelet Hashahar SynagogueLior Mizrahi/Flash 90

The demolition of the Ayelet Hashachar Synagogue in Givat Ze'ev would be a terrible black mark on Israel – as bad as burning a Torah scroll, said Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of Tzfat (Safed) in northern Israel.

“I live in the Galilee, and there are thousands of Arab homes and mosques that were illegally built,” Eliyahu told Army Radio Thursday, just a few days before the structure was set to be torn down.

“No one touches them, no court issues orders to demolish them, and there are no threats to them. There is unfair treatment between synagogues and mosques.”

The Ayelet Hashachar synagogue, which has been in use for over 20 years, is slated to be demolished at the end of the month after far-left group Yesh Din filed a petition with the High Court, claiming that the structure had been build on privately-owned Palestinian land.

A petition to demolish it has been working its way through the courts for at least three years.

Members of the congregation have offered the land's alleged owners a high price for the purchase or rental of the land, but they, and their lawyers, have insisted that the synagogue be torn down. It is not clear why the Palestinian claimants waited some two decades to make their claims, the congregants said.

The heads of the congregation appealed after claiming they were in possession of documents showing they had bought the land from its owners.

In September, the High Court ruled that the land belonged to the plaintiffs, and that there was no alternative but to tear it down. The demolition order was set to go into effect on October 15 – postponed by a week, the court said, because of the “sensitivity of tearing it down a day after the end of the Sukkot holiday.”

After several other hearings, in which congregants sought to appeal the demolition orders on various grounds, the court set this weekend as the final date for demolition.

Over the past several weeks, protesters from the synagogue and its supporters have demanded that government ministers step in to prevent the demolition or else quit the coalition.

Several senior rabbis from across the political spectrum also signed an open letter Wednesday calling on security forces not to destroy the synagogue.

"It is an act prohibited by our holy Torah," the letter said, noting that even the Torah principle of following the letter of the law in one's country of residence does not apply in scenarios where Torah law is explicitly broken. "Even the decision of the kingdom and the leadership does not change this severe Torah prohibition, this is also blasphemy."

Rabbi Eliyahu said that Israelis could not allow the demolition to take place, arguing “the High Court has breached a wall with this decision. Now that the High Court has authorized harming holy places, there is no telling how ordinary citizens will act in regard to them."

To prevent the demolition, he said, Israelis should legally harass High Court judges who are behind the decision. “Follow them to the grocery story, the theater, and protest to them with all legal means possible their actions."