Rabin takes on the zealots of Jericho: Israeli Prime Minister signals he will use force if necessary against rabbis refusing to vacate synagogue

AS ISRAELI soldiers massed outside the Jericho synagogue, armed rabbis inside were debating the law: Can a Jew kill another Jew in self-defence? Does the Bible say a Jewish settler may gun down a Jewish soldier, for the sake of Eretz Israel?

'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.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model of a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution