The scenes and testimony of the desecration of a holy site at the end of last week have evoked stunned horror: A tractor sent by the Israel Lands Authority, backed by dozens of riot police, rammed the aron kodesh and razed the Heichal HaBesht shul in the middle of the night on Thursday. The Breslov shul is located on Yechezkel Hanavi Street in Ramat Beit Shemesh Gimmel; it was completely demolished. The incident took place on Erev Rosh Chodesh Av, at the height of the Three Weeks, just prior to the Nine Days, when we mourn the Churban of the Bais Hamikdash.
The demolition took place despite the pleas of the mispallelim and vigorous efforts to arrange for the shul to remain at the site. The agreement of the mispallelim to willingly vacate the premises did not help in preventing the destruction and desecration of the shul. The forces worked in the darkness of night, and defiled the site in a horrible way.
The Heichal Habesht shul in Ramat Beit Shemesh Gimmel is a vibrant place of Torah and tefillah for many people. The mispallelim learned of the intentions of the ILA to destroy the shul, and kept watch day and night in order to prevent – literally with their bodies – the demolition from happening.
However, in the dark of night, dozens of riot police were sent to the site to clear away all the mispallelim so they could carry out their work.
According to testimonies by the mispallelim, a bit after 3:30 in the morning, some 15 vehicles arrived full of riot police. They granted the mispallelim a short time to take everything out of the shul, and then, the dreadful moment arrived when the tractor began ramming the shul while the aron kodesh was still inside.
Before the demolition began, the mispallelim pleaded to be able to take the aron kodesh apart respectfully, but they were firmly refused, and the shameful destruction proceeded.
After just half an hour, the shul was reduced to a pile of rubble.
The mispallelim began to sob over having witnessed, in the Jewish state, the destruction of a bais mikdash me’at during the days that we mourn the Churban. They bemoaned the fact that things had reached such a state. The residents claim that the harsh steps taken recently against shuls in the city of Beit Shemesh are due to winds blowing from the municipality, which did nothing to prevent it.
The municipality claims that the site belongs to the ILA, and that efforts to locate the owners of the structure failed. They municipality further claimed that the lot included two other institutions that were evicted and who arranged their status. After the mispallelim of the Kehillas HaBesht shul learned of the intention to carry out the eviction, they appealed to the municipality for assistance in helping resolve the problem. The municipality claims that efforts were made to negotiate with the representatives of the ILA, but time was short and the ILA executed the eviction notice. The municipality did not explain why they did not succeed or did not try to prevent the eviction even though the negotiations had not yet been fully exhausted.
The municipality, apparently alarmed by the public outcry generated by the scenes of a destroyed shul, quickly announced that it is examining the option of providing an alternative place for the mispallelim to daven.
On Friday night, a mass Kabbalas Shabbos was held in the streets in protest of what had happened.
On Motzaei Shabbos as well, the msipallelim of the shul along with many other residents of Beit Shemesh who are pained over the desecration, gathered to bemoan the turn of events. They also sang songs of yearning and recited piyutim about the Bais Hamikdash. The gabbai of the shul announced that they would launch a fundraising effort to rebuild the shul.