State agrees to hear settler argument against sealing shul

MK Danon: I want to commend the PM for getting involved in this issue and I am sure that after the hearing, the synagogue will be saved.

October 8, 2010 07:54
3 minute read.
THE EL MATAN outpost’s synagogue was built without the proper authorization, the justices said.

El Matan synagogue 311. (photo credit: Gur Dotan)


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The state agreed on Thursday to accept a written argument from settlers by Sunday against sealing an unauthorized synagogue in the El Matan outpost in Samaria.

However, the synagogue’s attorney, Yitzhak Bam, has appealed to the state to hold an oral hearing and to have it at a later date so there is sufficient time to prepare for it.

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Meanwhile, attorney Michael Sfard, legal adviser to Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, which originally petitioned against the synagogue, charged that the state did not have the authority to hold any hearing for Bam because the order to seal the synagogue had been made by the High Court of Justice and was not an administrative decision by the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria.

“When it comes to administrative orders, there are circumstances in which there is a right to a hearing,” said Sfard. “But when the order comes from the court, there is no such right, because only the court has the authority to cancel it.”

MK Danny Danon (Likud) said he believed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had personally intervened on behalf of the synagogue.

“I want to commend the prime minister for getting involved in this delicate issue after I approached him with a personal letter, and I am sure that after the hearing, the synagogue will be saved,” said Danon.

The state’s decision to allow a written argument came after Justice Hanan Meltzer on Wednesday rejected a request by a petitioner to issue an interim injunction prohibiting the civil administration from sealing up the illegally built synagogue in El Matan.

At the same time, however, he left the door open for the state to offer a hearing to Bam.

Bam is representing the petitioner, Yoel Bloch, who said he worshipped at the illegal synagogue.

Bloch had requested the interim injunction and petitioned the High Court of Justice to order the state to grant a hearing to the settlers before deciding whether to seal the building. Bloch argued that the settlers should be given a hearing just as Palestinians had been granted a hearing before the civil administration decided to demolish an illegally built mosque.

Earlier on Wednesday, the state urged the court to reject Bloch’s request, maintaining that the situations of the synagogue and the mosque were different and it was unlikely the court would accept the petition and order the state to grant a hearing to the settlers before sealing up the synagogue.

Therefore, it said, there was no reason to grant the interim injunction.

Furthermore, the Defense Ministry had promised that it would seal the building in such a way that it could be unsealed if the court eventually ordered the state to do so, the state added.

Despite these arguments, the state added in the last paragraph of its brief that it “would not oppose, above and beyond the letter of the law, holding a hearing and postponing the sealing of the structure until it was held, and pending its results.”

Meltzer replied that he did not oppose such a move.

The outpost is located about 1 kilometer south (and inside the official boundaries) of the Ma’aleh Shomron settlement.

The fight over the synagogue began last year, when the village mukhtars petitioned the High Court to order the state to carry out stop-work orders issued against the structure, which was built on land that lacked a detailed plan and therefore could not get a building permit.

At the request of the petitioners, the court issued an interim injunction banning further work on the building.

On June 7, the state informed the court that the settlers were continuing to build. As a result, it promised to seal the building “in the next few days.” The court ordered the state to do so within 60 days.

A few days later, the Samaria Settlers’ Committee petitioned the court against the decision to seal up the synagogue. The court rejected the petition and reiterated its earlier ruling, based on the state’s promise that the synagogue would be sealed up within 60 days.

Bloch’s petition was another effort to prevent that from happening.

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