Elmatan Synagogue
Elmatan Synagogue Yoni Kempinski

Hundreds of  demonstrators from Samaria as well as from cities such as Jerusalem, Netanya, Bat Yam, gathered at the Yitzhar Junction, across from the Arab village of Burin on Monday, where they demanded that construction of an illegal mosque being built in the area be stopped.

The protest was organized by the Shomron (Samaria) Residents Council and was entitled “A Synagogue is Sealed – A Mosque is Renovated”. The demonstrators protested the selective enforcement by the State Attorney’s Office and the Defense Minister, backed by the Prime Minister. As part of this enforcement, a synagogue built within the community of El Matan is under a threat of being sealed in the coming days simply because the Defense Minister will not sign the master plan for the community. At the same time, the Burin mosque continues to be built on state-owned lands without any legal permits.

Taking part in the protest were Shomron Regional Council Mayor Gershon Mesika, MKs Danny Danon (Likud), Aryeh Eldad (National Union), Nissim Ze’ev (Shas), Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of Elon Moreh, and Yitzhar’s Rabbi David Dudkevich.

Sagit and Tomer Mor, who represented El Matan at the protest, were the first to speak and said: “El Matan is growing. As a result of this a synagogue was built. Extreme left organizations immediately began a political persecution, despite the fact that the synagogue does not bother anyone. There is a simple solution - a political decision that will approve the structure. The hand that signed the demolition is the hand that will sign the permit. Prime Minister, let us pray in our synagogue as you pray with your children.”

Mesika said: “We say loud and clear - the land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel. Not because of a decision or anything else, but because G-d gave it to us. If such a thing would happen anywhere else except Israel, everyone would cry out all at once, and rightly so. The El Matan synagogue is located on state-owned land within the approved master plan of the community. On the one hand Defense Minister Ehud Barak does not sign the plan, while on the other he wants to close the synagogue. Why? Because he himself will not sign. We cannot allow this grave injustice.”

MK Danon said that while he favors religious freedom by Muslims to build mosques, synagogues should be built first in Israel. “I appeal to the Prime Minister, since I do not expect anything from Ehud Barak. I call on the Prime Minister to stop the bulldozers and not to allow the destruction of synagogues,” said Danon.

Other speakers included MK Ze’ev, who said that the destruction of the synagogue goes against a 2001 UN decision which does not allow religious sites to be violated. MK Eldad blamed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for the decision, and accused him of going against what he had promised during the last elections. Eldad referred to the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria and said that if the freeze continues, his party will vote against Netanyanu in a non-confidence vote next week.

MK Ben-Ari said: “The synagogue is the tip of the iceberg. A Civil Administration officer told me that they enforce things equally. I asked for his work plan to see where they go every day, and we have been waiting for the plan to this day. There is a unilateral repression here by Netanyahu, who was elected for a specific purpose and immediately went to speak at Bar-Ilan University, supposedly in the name of his right-wing voters. If a Palestinian state is established here as they want, do you think will be a Yeshiva? A Synagogue? If you destroy a synagogue, I want to see you taking down one scaffolding from the mosque here. Selective enforcement is illegal and I expect equal enforcement.”

Rabbi Dudkevich wondered during the demonstration “how a Jewish state insists on sealing a synagogue under false pretenses, when that same state does not enforce the law at the Temple Mount, the most sacred Jewish site.” He was quoted in Yediot Aharonoth.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority-based news agency Ma'an reported that residents of Burin said that IDF soldiers stood between the protesters and villagers in order to prevent clashes.

Shechem Mayor Jibrin Al-Bakri called the demonstrators “provocative”, according to the report. He condemned the demonstration and said it would encourage violence. He added that villagers would not remain silent over the humiliation.