Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Sivan 5761 - June 20, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Order to Dismantle Temporary Har Nof Synagogue Postponed
by Betzalel Kahn

On 20 Sivan the Jerusalem Court for Local Affairs rejected the implementation of an order to raze a temporary synagogue in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood due to a problem found in the order issued by Mayor Ehud Olmert. The demolition order was issued on Friday, 7 Sivan, within a few hours after the request as a result of pressure exerted by someone with a high government post who lives near the synagogue and who objects to the shul's presence there.

On Thursday morning two connected caravans (prefabricated units) were placed on 14 Zerach Barnett Street in a private parking lot belonging to a number of the residents on the street, to serve as a synagogue.

On Friday morning, an engineer from the Local Committee for Building and Planing in the Municipality arrived on the scene and tacked a notice on the structure.

Just a few hours later, Mayor Olmert received a request for a demolition order, accompanied by a formal statement by engineer Rima Barzilai. It had been send by Yisrael ben Ari, Director of the Building Supervisory Department, and Attorney Dani Leibman, representative of the Attorney General in the Municipality.

They asked Olmert exert his authority under the Building and Planning Law and issue a demolition order to tear down the caravans. An order was issued a short while later, stating that the structure would be demolished within a period of 24 hours after the posting of the notice on the "illegally erected" building.

Synagogue members claim that a high-ranking government official living nearby opposes the synagogue and pressured the Municipality to issue the order for its immediate demolition. "This is the first time that a mayor has issued a demolition order within four hours after such request was presented," synagogue members noted.

They claimed that the decision of the mayor to issue such in order immediately has political undertones, because such orders are usually signed only after deliberations in court or following court orders.

On Sunday morning 19 Sivan, Attorney Refael Shtub, acting on behalf of the members of the synagogue, filed a request with the Court for Local Affairs in Jerusalem to either cancel or postpone the demolition order on the grounds that it is illegal and lacks the signature of the Municipal Director.

Attorney Refael Shtub claims that according to the relevant law in this case (the Law of the King and the Council), only the Religious Affairs Minister is authorized to order the demolition of a synagogue, since it is a sacred place. A mayor is not authorized to destroy a synagogue. Moreover, Shtub said that the order was issued in defiance of other existing regulations: the Attorney General has determined that suits against synagogues may be carried out through legal procedure only, not through administrative procedures such as an order of the mayor.

Shtub also claims that the statement presented by the engineer on behalf of the municipality was erroneous and that the Municipality had no reason to issue demolition orders, for no one is harmed in any way by the building's presence. In addition, he said that since a temporary structure does not require a permit from the local authority, the local authority is not qualified to issue orders for its demolition. Shtub added that this particular structure is meant to be in use for two months only and that the speed with which the Municipality issued the order is uncalled for.

In his decision, Justice of the Court for Local Affairs Moshe Sobel determined that the municipality had not proven that it had the approval of Director of the Municipality Raanan Dinor for the demolition. The judge told the Municipality that it must prove within a week that the Director had indeed been consulted.

The judge also ruled that the demolition order be postponed.

The members of the synagogue were assisted by the deputy mayors Rabbi Uri Lopolianski and Rabbi Uri Maklev.

The Spokesman of the Jerusalem Municipality issued the following response, "These are mobile structures that were placed on the site without any permit or coordination with the Municipality. These structures block the street."


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