Korean Cantor Sings to Protest Synagogue Demolition

August 26, 2015  

Cantor Yigal Han, an Orthodox Jewish convert of South Korean descent, rallied to the cause in a planned protest last week against the Supreme Court demolition order on the Ayelet Hashahar synagogue in Givat Ze’ev, located northwest of Jerusalem.

Han, who released his debut album just earlier this month, was asked to lead a mass prayer against the planned destruction, but at the last moment the sides reached an interim compromise by which the synagogue was sealed off, and the protest was canceled. Nevertheless, Han sang with members of the synagogue as it was sealed to protest the move.

The cantor, who is a graduate of the Tel Aviv Cantorial Institute, lives not far from the synagogue in Givat Ze’ev, after having made aliyah 13 years ago and moving to Israel from Cleveland, Ohio.

“Even though I’m not a member of the synagogue, and its prayer style is completely different from the Edut Hamizrah style, I was asked to lead the planned prayers, or else to perform cantorial segments from the Psalmls,” Han told Yedioth Aharonoth on Sunday.

“In the end I read the prayer ‘Avinu Av Harachaman‘ (‘Our merciful Father’) during the night the synagogue was sealed, when I was at the synagogue with other worshipers.”

Numerous politicians and rabbis have come out calling for support of the synagogue against the court’s decision, including MK David Amsalem (Likud), and senior religious Zionist Rabbi Shlomo Aviner. Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef turned to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asking that he take action to help the synagogue, but in the end it was sealed.

The synagogue, which has been in use for over 20 years, was slated to be demolished after a far-left group filed a petition with the Court, claiming that the structure had been built on privately-owned Palestinian Arab land.

The petition had been working its way through the courts for at least three years. Members of the congregation have offered the land’s alleged owners a high price for the purchase or rental of the land, but they, and their lawyers, have insisted that the synagogue be torn down. It is not clear why the Palestinian claimants waited some two decades to make their claims, the congregants said.

The heads of the congregation are in possession of documents showing that they bought the land from its owners, according to their attorneys.

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