Petitioners demand halt to Ofra construction

Settlement's rabbi issues rabbinical ruling permitting work on Shabbat to finish houses.

ofra 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ofra 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In a race against time, attorney Michael Sfard on Thursday asked the High Court of Justice to reconsider its refusal to immediately freeze the illegal construction of nine houses in the West Bank settlement of Ofra. Sfard told the court he was spurred to action after learning that the rabbi of Ofra, Avi Gisser, had issued a rabbinical ruling permitting work on Shabbat in order to finish the houses as quickly as possible and move families into them. Sfard represents two human rights organizations and five Palestinians who petitioned the court last week. The Palestinians claim that the land on which the houses are being built belongs to them. In the petition filed on June 4, Sfard asked the court for an interim injunction to suspend construction until the court rules on the main body of the petition, and an immediate injunction to suspend construction on the spot until the court rules on the request for the interim injunction. The main body of the petition calls on the government to implement government-issued stop-work and demolition orders immediately. As an interim measure, it called on the court to suspend construction and prevent families from moving into the houses. Justice Edmond Levy gave the state 10 days to respond to the petition for an interim injunction but turned down the request for an immediate injunction. Sfard also complained that the request for the interim injunction would be further delayed because the State Attorney's Office did not receive Levy's decision, giving it 10 days to respond, on the day it was handed down. Instead of receiving it on June 4, the state received the decision on June 10. As a result, instead of submitting its response by June 14, the state will have until June 20. That means that unless the court grants the immediate injunction, the settlers will have at least until then to continue building unimpeded.