Inside Tel Aviv's restored Great Synagogue
Inside Tel Aviv's restored Great SynagogueMelissa Kohavi

The president of the Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv, Shlomo Pivko announced this morning that he is closing the gates of the mythological synagogue, claiming that the Tel Aviv municipality has confiscated the synagogue's bank account to cover the Synagogue's outstanding municipal taxes, the Behadrei Haredim Hebrew news site reported

According to Behadrei Haredim, the debt owed by the synagogue to the municipality stands at 2 million shekels ($500,000), which, as noted, was accumulated from municipal taxes that were not paid for 6-7 years. In recent years, Pivko has raised hundreds of thousands of shekels to cover the debt, but did not manage to reach the full amount.

This morning, Pivko told Behadrei Haredim, "Unfortunately, I have to close the gates of the Great Synagogue. The Tel Aviv Municipality, in the atmosphere of the Supreme Court ruling [permitting businesses to open on the Sabbath], looted the bank account in a brutal, brutal and aggressive way. Therefore, I have no choice but to close the gates to the Great Synagogue".

Pivko added that "it is a disgrace that in the State of Israel, on the eve of Independence Day, the Tel Aviv municipality, which only today we learned has pocketed 150 million shekels ($41 million) from parking reports in 2017, is behaving vengefully and harming everything related to religion, tradition and holy places. The Great Synagogue in recent years has been a bridge and a meeting place between the religious and the secular, and it is a cultural center and a magnet for all city residents, no matter what their lifestyle. This is a sad day for the city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa."

The Great Synagogue has been a part of the history of the city and of the State of Israel since the founding of the state. David Ben Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister, attended services at the Synagogue during the first Independence Day in 1949. The Synagogue also hosted the inaugurations of Israel’s Chief Rabbis and the funerals of Israeli national icons, including Israel's national poet Haim Nachman Bialik and pre-state Zionist leader Haim Arlosoroff who was assassinated while walking on the Tel Aviv beach.