A Palestinian laborer works on a construction site in the new Palestinian town dubbed Rawabi or "The Hills", near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Regavim NGO that seeks to prevent construction work performed by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians without construction permits has filed a criminal suit against the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate for failing to halt the building of an amphitheater in the West Bank.
Regavim is a right-wing legal rights organization founded by MK Bezalel Smotrich, from the Tekuma Party of the Bayit Yehudi Knesset faction.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem began construction work of a large amphitheater next to the Deir Hajla monastery southeast of Jericho in the Jordan valley in the beginning of 2014.
In March 2014, Regavim appealed to the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria to prevent the ongoing construction since no permit had been obtained for it. The civil administration said it responded by issuing orders to cease construction and to destroy what had already been built, although Regavim says that construction nevertheless continued and the destruction order was not implemented.
The NGO then petitioned the High Court of Justice, which issued an interim injunction in June 2014 forbidding continued construction and instructed the civil administration to document the status of the amphitheater at that time in order to verify that further construction was indeed halted.
Ahead of a High Court hearing on the issue this month, Regavim activists visited the site to document whether or not further construction had taken place and, according to the NGO, they found that construction had continued with the laying of concrete floors and walls at the site, along with new scaffolding and the presence of concrete mixers that, the organization said, proved construction had continued.
Regavim asserts that this constitutes a violation of the High Court’s interim injunction and filed a criminal complaint on Sunday to the Binyamin Region Police Department against the Greek Patriarchate.
“This violation if the interim injunction must be taken seriously since it has been committed not by an individual person but by a reputed international entity that is obligated to respect Israeli sovereignty in the region,” insisted Regavim attorney Boaz Arzi. “The Greek Orthodox church is not above the law or above the decisions of the High Court of Justice. When the court issues an interim injunction to stop building, the Greek Orthodox church has an obligation to fully comply with this order.”
Subsequent to the 2014 destruction order, the Greek Patriarchate did apply for a construction permit but this is yet been to be granted.
Regavim says it wants the law to be enforced and for the civil administration to implement the destruction order and destroy the partially completed amphitheater.
Efforts to contact the Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem were unanswered.