September 13, 2005

by Andrew Silow-Carroll
ZOA shocked, shocked by synagogue razings

The latest press release from ZOA, under the headline "PALESTINIAN DESTRUCTION OF GAZA SYNAGOGUES ONLY LATEST IN HISTORY OF DESTROYING JEWISH HOLY SITES":

New York - With Israel's unilateral retreat from Gaza, synagogues abandoned intact have been destroyed by Palestinian mobs....Despite claiming respect for Judaism, the PA has a long, disgraceful record of allowing synagogues and sanctuaries to be attacked and destroyed wherever it has been in control...

Question: When does a synagogue stop being a synagogue? And what was anybody expecting -- that the Palestinians would have kept the synagogues as a loving tribute to their former neighbors? Everyone knew this was a demolition project waiting to happen -- the question was whether the Israelis or the Palestinians would be in charge of the demolition. Is it worth bringing up how many shtiebl-like mosques and prayer spaces were removed when Israel expanded the Western Wall plaza?

It is important to remember the background to this "desecration":

The Israeli defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, ordered the demolition of the synagogues to stop after it had begun on Friday morning, saying that as a religious person, he found it "very difficult to give the order to destroy synagogues." He said he preferred that the Palestinian Authority take responsibility for them, a request that the Palestinians had already refused.

Mr. Mofaz's statement embarrassed the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which had voted numerous times to destroy the synagogues rather than leave open the possibility that they would be desecrated by Palestinians. The government had also fought in the courts to win an order for their destruction.

On Thursday, Israel's highest court rejected an appeal by rabbis and supported the government's plan to pull down Gaza's synagogues.

On Sunday the Cabinet reversed itself and voted 14 to 2 not to tear down the synagogues.

Can you blame Mohammed Dahlan, the Palestinian civil affairs minister, when he described the Israeli decision about the synagogues as a "political trap"?


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Comments
#1

It didn't have to end like this.


The Israelis could have sold the synagogues to an evangelical church, as happened all the time in the old Jewish neighborhood of Harlem.


Or someone could have declared that the synagogues marked the graves of one of the ancient holy men -- Avimelech, King of the Philistines, perhaps? -- and ceded them to Hamas.

Posted by: Reb Yudel at September 13, 2005 9:59 AM
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