HCJ 6642/08 Rabah Abdallatif v the Minister of Defense; HCJ 9496/11 Rabah Mohammed v the Minister of Defense

Petition Description: The Ayalet Hashachar Synagogue was built in 2000 on private land belonging to a resident of the Palestinian village Al Jib. After he complained to the Civil Administration, a demolition order was issued on the synagogue, which was built without permits; however, the order was not enforced. In 2008, Yesh Din petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) on behalf of the landowner, asking the Court to instruct the defense minister, the IDF commander in the West Bank, the Civil Administration head and the Samaria and Judea (SJ) District Police head to enforce the removal and demolition orders for the synagogue built illegally on his private land.

After filing the petition, the organization that operated the synagogue claimed that its representatives purchased the land from someone who appeared to be the owner. High Court justices dismissed the petition in order for the purchase claims to be reviewed. Yesh Din filed a complaint with the police for suspicion of forged purchase documents, and in 2011, the organization was informed that the Police Division of Identification and Forensic Science pronounced the purchase documents forged.

Second Petition Submission Date: 12.21.2011

Following police’s findings of forgery, in December 2011, the landowner petitioned the High Court again, asking to implement the demolition order. In July 2014, after the State Attorney announced this was illegal construction on private Palestinian land, the HCJ ruled that the structure be demolished within one year.

The demolition of the synagogue was postponed due to various motions filed by the State, including a motion to postpone the demolition until after the High Holidays; the claim that the State lacked sufficient manpower to implement the demolition (two days after the motion was submitted, the Israel Police participated in the evacuation of a Palestinian family from their home in Silwan, East Jerusalem); and the motion to postpone due to concerns of a violent reaction from far Right activists in Israel.

In November 2015, the HCJ rejected the motion for postponement and instructed the State to carry out the demolition orders within two weeks. The justices wrote in their ruling that “We do not underestimate the professional assessments made by the police or its concerns regarding disturbances by extremist persons. However, we believe the claim provided in the motion does not justify further delay to carrying out the ruling. This claim might be used in the future, and in any case it is unclear why the police holds that the ruling can be implemented in three weeks’ time. Therefore, accepting the claim put forth in the police motion could prevent implementing the ruling after the requested period, on the basis of repeated motions. Such an outcome result cannot be reconciled with the rule of law.”

Petition Status: The petition was accepted. The State reached an agreement with representatives of the synagogue, according to which the synagogue would be demolished and another would be built in a different part of the settlement of Givat Ze’ev. Eventually, on December 1, 2015, the synagogue was demolished. As part of the petitioners’ consent to postpone implementation of the ruling, the State undertook to remove fencing surrounding the plot they own, which was indeed removed in January 2016. Afterwards, the land was returned to its legal owner.