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
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
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
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
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."