Rabin takes on the zealots of Jericho: Israeli Prime Minister signals he will use force if necessary against rabbis refusing to vacate synagogue
'We are not allowed to kill a Jew but we can kill a non-Jew who will threaten us,' said Adam, a Romanian-born rabbi.
'Our Bible says: 'Make sure you kill a man before he kills you first.' I would kill an Israeli soldier. It would not bother my conscience. I personally believe any soldier receiving orders to evict us should refuse. They should launch a military coup to oust Rabin.'
These words were spoken by desperate men, as the sun set over their synagogue, and over all of Eretz Israel (Greater Israel).
Two weeks ago Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, ordered the eviction of a group of 15 militant religious Jews, who, for four years, have inhabited an ancient Jewish synagogue near the centre of Jericho. Mr Rabin's decision was a practical one - the synagogue is situated on land which is to be handed over for Palestinian self-rule, and the settlers are a major obstacle in the current peace negotiations.
The eviction order, however, was also highly symbolic. It has demonstrated to religious Jews throughout the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip that their power is no longer, and that withdrawal from what they describe as 'biblical Israel' is now not ruled out. Recent attempts by other settlers to lay claim to new sites all over the West Bank have also been blocked by the Israeli army. Mr Rabin has promised that he will not 'uproot' settlers, in the first stage of the peace talks. But that is precisely what he is doing in Jericho - albeit from a synagogue.
Although Mr Rabin has made assurances to religious leaders that the synagogue holy site will be protected in future, he wants the settlers themselves to leave. They are being given time to go voluntarily, but Mr Rabin has signalled that he is prepared to use force.
This week a settler demonstration to protest over the Jericho eviction was banned and yesterday the settlers challenged the ban in the Israeli courts.
As the verdict was awaited, leaders of the once great settler movement arrived at the synagogue to show solidarity and crowds were bused in from nearby Jewish communities. But by nightfall the soldiers outnumbered settlers by two to one.
Inside the synagogue, the rabbis talked about retaliation. As they checked for trouble, soldiers entering the synagogue donned skullcaps. But there was little desire for confrontation.
'Jewish law shows saplings should be sown well apart. If they are planted too close together their roots intermingle and their health is damaged,' said a young religious student.
Mr Rabin has never had any time for religious settlers. As soon as he was elected, the Prime Minister attempted to marginalise such settlers - terming their communities 'political' rather than 'security' settlements, and saying that true Zionism should not be judged by expansion of territory.
Today, almost five months after the signing of the Gaza-Jericho accords, Mr Rabin has undercut the settlers' popular support, preparing the ground for the day when they must be evicted for good. That task began this week in Jericho. By nightfall the news had come through that the court had upheld the demonstration ban. Police and soldiers cordoned off the protesters from the synagogue and set up roadblocks - normally reserved for Palestinians - to check settler cars.
Whatever Jewish law may say, it seems, in this case, Mr Rabin has Israeli law behind him.
That's some guestlist! Stunning images show huge dynastic wedding between Ultra-Orthodox Jewish families which attracted 25,000 guests
Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
Video: Woolwich attack - man with bloodied hands and knife addresses camera
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, the mother-of-two hailed as a hero for confronting Woolwich attackers, thought: 'better me than a child'
- 1 Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
- 2 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 3 Grace Dent: I’m not sure how these people can avoid being called ‘bigots’. And the more ‘civilised’, the worse they are
- 4 Woolwich murder: They killed, then they performed - these men should be starved of our attention
- 5 Woolwich attack: The EDL will seek to exploit this evil crime for their own evil ends
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.