Lowering a Menora from the synagogue in Netzarim
Photo: Reuters
Palestinians won’t guard synagogues
High Court deliberation on petition to save Gaza synagogues reveals Palestinian rejection of Israeli request to guard syangogues; stormy session followed

The Palestinian Authority has refused a request by the Israeli government to look into the possibility of guarding synagogues in Gush Katif, according to Chief Prosecutor Avi Lihet.


The chief prosecutor was speaking during a second High Court deliberation, called to rule on a petition calling for Gaza synagogues not to be destroyed.


The chief prosecutor, responding to a query by Chief Justice Aharon Barak about the fact that no agreement was reached with the Palestinians (about the synagogues), said that “there are additional views here, not just religious, but also national. The religious don’t have a monopoly over the treatment of synagogues. Even if the Palestinian Authority would take it on itself (to guard the synagogues), it couldn’t live up to such a commitment”.


The chief prosecutor explained why the State wished to override requests to keep the synagogues standing, saying that “the State of Israel does not want to see Palestinians desecrating synagogues. There is a symbolic dimension here, and this is the Israeli stance. We do not want to see Muslims celebrating on the roofs of synagogues.”


He also said he did not want to internationalize the conflict by bringing in foreign forces to guard the synagogues.


Requests from around the wiorld


Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger, who had previously backed the State’s position, switched sides and backed the petitioners, saying the synagogues should not be destroyed.


A lawyer acting on behalf of the petitioners, Gilad Korinaldi, said that he has received requests from rabbis and Jewish communities from around the world, claiming that authorities in various countries would destroy synagogues, and excusing the act by saying that Israel also destroys synagogues.


Haifa Chief Rabbi Shear Yeshuv Cohen said, “Jewish law forbids Jews from destroying synagogues, even if those who hate us destroy them.”


Rabbi Simha Hacohen Kook, the chief rabbi of Rehovot and a grandson of Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook, told the Court, “Two Holy Temples were destroyed by our enemies and now we ourselves are doing the wrecking. If the State of Israel destroys these synagogues, it will be the only country in the world doing such a thing.”


At this point, Judge Amnon Rubenstein, who had previously criticized representatives of the rabbinate, interrupted him, saying: “Where were you in June 2004? I also share the heartbreak and don’t want synagogues destroyed, but where were you before?”


Rabbi Kook replied, “We didn’t believe that the State of Israel would destroy synagogues with bombs and bulldozers. This is unprecedented in human history. Could such a nightmare be really hapenning?”


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