Israeli police are pushing to have the controversial razing of a synagogue in a West Bank settlement delayed amid fear that its demolition could lead to violent confrontations and a spike in right-wing settler attacks against Palestinians. Hundreds of Jews have been holed up in a synagogue since Tuesday night, and activists said they were willing to lay down their lives to save their prayer house, as they set up tires and wooden barricades around the perimeter.
"People are willing to commit suicide and give their lives for the synagogue," Aryeh Binyamin, a local resident and Ayelet Hashachar synagogue founder, told the right-wing Israeli newspaper Arutz Sheva. "How can Jews seek to destroy a synagogue? The High Court judges must not be Jews. What Jew would tear down a synagogue?"
— The Jerusalem Post (@Jerusalem_Post) November 4, 2015
The High Court of Justice ordered the synagogue be demolished last month following a year of appeals to save the structure. The court granted an extension Wednesday but said the structure must be demolished by Nov. 17. A case last year was brought forward arguing that the documents related to the purchase of the property from Palestinian land owners were forged, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The synagogue sits in the settlement of Givat Ze’ev and is owned by Amana, a construction company tied to the West Bank settler movement. Settlements have been condemned by the international community on the basis that many sit on land that was once owned by Palestinians and that would make up a future Palestinian state. Settlers, on the right of the Israeli political spectrum, often believe Jews have a biblical right to the land, and have frequently staged attacks against Palestinians.
The entrance to the GIVAT ZEEV synagogue that is under threat of demolition pic.twitter.com/JGFB2zn1Fo
— Tovah Lazaroff (@tovahlazaroff) November 4, 2015
Pro-settlement activists rushed to save the structure Tuesday night in anticipation of its demolition Wednesday morning. They erected banners with slogans like "Down with the Supreme Court's racism" and "Why are you destroying synagogues and not the houses of terrorists," according to the Jerusalem Post. Settlers generally view the Israeli government as working against their interests, although Palestinians have charged the Israeli government with turning a blind eye to settler violence.
— Mossad News (@MossadNews) November 4, 2015
The demolition order comes as Israel and Palestine have experienced soaring tensions in recent months. What began as clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces around the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem has spilled across the region, and has prompted a wave of stabbings across Israel and violent confrontations in the West Bank. Authorities said they feared that carrying through the demolition would spur attacks against Palestinians.