The Reform Movement won an important legal battle against an Israeli municipality that tried to block its plans to build a synagogue for its members.
In a verdict made Thursday by the court of Lod, the municipality of Hod Hasharon – a small town north of Tel Aviv – was given the assignment to continue the project without further delays and to build the synagogue on the grounds already was assigned goal.
The verdict was pronounced by the Lod court in response to a lawsuit filed in May by Kehilat Yonatan, the local reform community.
Representatives of the congregation had accused the congregation of religious discrimination and emphasized that the project had gone through too much of a hassle because of the reform movement. The congregation was represented in its suite by the Israel Religious Action Center, the advocating arm of the reform movement in the country.
The municipality, for its part, had quoted neighbors' opposition as the reason for its dedication to allocate land for the synagogue. The municipality rejected a recent offer from the municipality to relocate the synagogue to another location in the city, noting that it had already spent hundreds of thousands of shekels in the planning of the building and that further delays in the implementation of the project could give donors scare.
Judge Menachem Finkelstein, who wrote the verdict, called it a clear case. "It was embarrassing to read the protocols of local council meetings, including all the running and running of public representatives so they would not have to comply with the clear and professional recommendations of the [land] allocation committee and the municipal legal counsel, "wrote Finkelstein, who acts as vice-president of the court." I am saddened by the behavior of the city's representatives, including those of the mayor, who tried to evade their duties. especially those of decent behavior. "
The judge ordered the municipality to pay 30,000 shekels of court fees to the petitioners.
Orly Erez-Likhovsky, Director of IRAC's Legal Department, replied to the statement: "This should be a warning sign for all those local authorities who ignore their legal advisors for political reasons."
Hundreds of Hod Hasharon residents visit the services in Kehilat Yonatan during the Jewish holidays and thousands annually take part in lectures and other activities organized by the congregation. So far, the congregation has used a building in the Alexander Muss High School – that offers programs for high school students from all over the world – as a temporary location for holding services and other activities.
Kehilat Yonatan, one of the 50 Reformed congregations in Israel, is led by Rabbi Michael Boyden, who moved to Israel with his family in 1985 from England. The congregation was named in honor of his son Yonatan, who came into action in Lebanon in 1993.
Kehilat Yonatan filed his first request for land on which 15 years ago a synagogue would be built. A professional municipal committee approved the request seven years later, but the mayor vetoed the decision because he preferred to transfer the story to other developers. It took another three years before an alternative plot for the congregation was found.