In a letter sent this week to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Religious Affairs Minister Ya'acov Margi publicly supported the construction of a synagogue in an illegal outpost in the Samaria region.
In the letter sent Sunday, Margi wrote that halting the building of a synagogue in El Matan, a neighborhood of Ma'ale Shomron, was "illogical" and violated the rights of the residents to pray.
El Matan is one of 105 outposts listed as illegally built in the Sasson Report, an official Israeli government report published on March 8, 2005 that investigated illegal building in Judea and Samaria.
"As the minister responsible for religious services in the state of Israel I ask for your intervention so that residents of the place who have equal rights like all other citizens of Israel can exercise their right to a house of prayer," wrote Margi.
Residents of El Matan, which is located about a kilomter from Ma'ale Shomron, began construction on a synagogue about two months ago. However, construction was halted shortly after it began after the Civil Administration Authorities in Judea and Samaria issued a restraining order.
The order was issued at the same time that Yesh Din, a non-profit legal watchdog, petitioned the Supreme Court against the building of the Synagogue, stating it was illegal.
However, Margi and the residents of Ma'ale Shomron and El Matan said that El Matan was not an illegal outpost and that it was built on land provided by the World Zionist Organization on June 22 1997.
Ruth Shapira Chair of the El Matan neighborhood said in response, "The fact that an extreme left-wing organization that claims to protect civil rights is picking on a synagogue in a religious settlement proves that they have no principles and it is sad that the government is likely to give them a hand."
Shapira said that there are about 60 people including children who live in El Matan and between 200 and 250 families living in Ma'ale Shomron She said that Arab-owned land seperates between El Matan and Ma'ale Shomron. As a result it is impossible to build an Iruv or boundary marker that allows religious Jews to carry from Maale Shomron to El Matan. Therefore there is a need for another synagogue.
Dror Etkes, Land Project Director for Yesh Din, said in response, "Moshe rabbeinu also managed to get along without a synagogue. The most important thing is maintaining a strong heartfelt faith."
Etkes said that it was good that the building to the synagogue was stopped.
"I hope the people responsible for the building will be brought to justice for breaking the law. It is not enough that Jews are building in a place that is considered illegally occupied territories, they are also totally monopolizing the land on the West Bank when 90% of the residents are Palestinians."
Etkes also rejected the claim that the land was provided by the WZO.
To build on the West Bank it is not enough to get land from the WZO. The government authorities, the Civil Administration and the legal authorities have to approve it as well."