Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Elul 5765 - September 7, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Call Not to Destroy Shuls in Gush Katif

By Betzalel Kahn

The High Court heard a petition on Sunday demanding the botei knesses of Gush Katif be left intact. HaRav Simchah HaKohen Kook, the rov of Rechovot, appeared before the court, asking the enlarged bench of seven judges to order the government to turn to the UN organizations and the US authorities to demand international guarantees to preserve the botei knesses in areas to be handed over to the Palestinian Authority, which announced that it would not guard them.

On Tuesday the High Court asked the government to formally request of the Palestinian Authority that it protect the shuls. In response to an informal request the PA said it would not protect them, and said that Israel should not make a formal request.

Two weeks ago the High Court permitted the demolition of Gush Katif's botei knesses while the Chief Rabbinical Council determined they should be left standing. Later the government decided they would be dismantled and transferred to Israeli territory but another High Court petition froze the government's decision pending a new ruling.

On Sunday the High Court heard the second petition, filed by Attorney Gilad Korinaldy representing Rav Yishai Barkan, a rov in one of the former Gush Katif settlements. During the hearing Court President Judge Aharon Barak asked Attorney Avi Licht, representing the State's Attorney, why an agreement cannot be reached with the Palestinians to preserve the botei knesses. Licht said that one of the government ministers contacted a Palestinian official through a US intermediary in an attempt to assess the possibility of preserving the botei knesses but received a negative reply. Licht claims that security officials—whose names he refused to disclose—also discussed the issue with their Palestinian counterparts but no PA official was willing to take responsibility for their preservation.

In presenting the State's case Licht said, "If the Palestinian Authority commits to this it will not be able to meet its commitment. The State of Israel does not want to see the Palestinians defiling botei knesses. Even if it is not the halochoh, there is a symbolic element and this is the Israeli position: We don't want to see Muslims [dancing] on the roof tops of the botei knesses." Likewise the State of Israel does not want to bring international forces into Gaza to safeguard the holy places Licht added.

Representing the petitioner, Attorney Korinaldy claimed that rabbonim from Jewish communities around the world have been appealing to the Chief Rabbinate and other rabbonim in Eretz Yisroel in recent weeks to pressure the government to preserve the botei knesses based on concerns that if Israel destroys botei knesses other countries would be liable to follow suit with the old Jewish houses of worship within their borders that occupy prime pieces of real estate.

Judge Eliakim Rubinstein asked the petitioners and Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger, who was present at the hearing, why they did not petition against the government's decision a year ago when it was clear the botei knesses would not be left standing in Gaza. "I don't want botei knesses to be destroyed either, but why didn't you cry out a year ago? Why did you wait until now?"

Addressing the judges, HaRav Kook, the rov of Rechovot and a member of the Chief Rabbinical Council, said, "Nobody believed Israel would raze and blow up botei knesses. This has never happened in history. It is a dangerous precedent unparalleled over the course of thousands of years. From this day hence the nations of the world will know that in 5765 thirty botei knesses were destroyed in Eretz Yisroel. Standing before you today are representatives of masses of Jews who fear the governments in Eastern Europe will take away from them botei knesses that were redeemed from foreign hands after many long years. Suddenly, in the past weeks, various Eastern European countries have been unwilling to transfer botei knesses to Jewish hands with the claim even in Israel there are plans to destroy botei knesses.

"Rabbinical organizations in Europe say that the government's decision will have serious repercussions. Every judicial decision will have an impact on the nations of the world. Non- Jews don't destroy botei knesses either. Will Israel now become the first country in the world to destroy botei knesses? The whole world will clamor and shout if you allow the botei knesses to be destroyed. As is well known, botei knesses retain their sanctity even when in ruins."

HaRav Kook went on to say that contact was made with the US figure who passed a UN decision requiring all nations to defend and safeguard botei knesses, "and since Israel also signed this international decision we asked him to help force Israel to preserve the botei knesses. He told us that the UN can only respond to requests by nations and not private individuals. The US authorities will also respond only to a governmental request and not a private request. Thus the government has not done what is incumbent upon it and this constitutes a tremendous act of chilul Hashem.

"I hereby turn to the judges saying that you must demand, in a forceful and uncompromising way, that the government do all in its power to prevent the destruction of botei knesses and to force it to ask the United Nations and the US to provide international guarantees of the preservation of the botei knesses."

After the hearing, HaRav Kook said his remarks helped the judges realize the gravity of the matter and that the Jewish world would be hurt and in an uproar in response to a decision that would allow the botei knesses to be destroyed and therefore decided to delay their decision by two days.

Despite their claims against the petitioners for waiting so long to take action, the judges also directed criticism against the government for failing to take such a simple step as requesting the UN force the Palestinians to preserve the botei knesses using international forces.


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