efrat synagogue 311.
(photo credit: Eli Stein)
Efrat Local Council head Oded Revivi woke up at 4:45 a.m. on Thursday, when his cellphone, beeper and home phone all rang at once.
When he picked up the phone, a security guard told him that a massive bulldozer had just driven into the settlement, which is located in the Gush Etzion region of the West Bank, just south of Jerusalem.
Revivi told The Jerusalem Post
that by the time he found it, it had already destroyed a cement foundation for a new synagogue.
Efrat received the permit for the synagogue before late November, when the cabinet approved a 10-month moratorium on all Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria that didn’t already have a foundation.
After Shabbat on November 28, the night before Revivi received an injunction mandating compliance with the moratorium, settlers laid the foundation.
On the following Wednesday, settler leaders expanded the small concrete foundation, invited the media, and publicly declared that they had thawed the freeze.
Since then, Revivi said they had obeyed the injunction.
People who live next to the synagogue site said that on Thursday, they were awoken early by the sound of vehicles coming down the street.
At first they thought it was security personnel responding to a terrorist infiltration. But then they looked out their windows.
Revivi said he was “extremely surprised” to find himself staring blurry-eyed at a bulldozer at dawn, at a time when he is usually fast asleep. The bulldozer was accompanied by scores of border police officers and at least half a dozen other vehicles.
“I did not think they would go through with such an action, destroying a shul in the middle of the night,” he said.
“It had not occurred to me that the civil administration would target this cement platform, where no construction had occurred in months,” he said.
Revivi noted that his settlement is part of the Etzion bloc, which the government believes would remain part of Israel in any final-status agreement with the Palestinians.
Nadia Matar, an Efrat resident and co-chairwoman of Women In Green (Women for Israel’s Tomorrow), was also woken up. Like Revivi, she raced to the synagogue site only to find that the foundation was destroyed before she got there.
She said she believed the Defense Ministry had acted on Thursday morning to prove to visiting US Vice President Joe Biden that it was stopping illegal settlement construction.
“It was all a show for Joe Biden,” Matar said. “It shows how Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] feels that he has to atone [to the US]. Now we have to make sure our reaction will be a real one and not just a show.”
Revivi said he had not decided what his next step would be.
Before arriving in Efrat, border police officers and civil
administration employees destroyed five foundations in the Bat Ayin
settlement, also located in Gush Etzion.
Gush Etzion Regional Council chairman Shaul Goldstein said the sites
the civil administration destroyed on Thursday morning were “minor” and
“I can promise the prime minister and the civil administration that
these houses will be built. If not today, then tomorrow, and if not
tomorrow, then the day after,” he said.