The Hurva Synagogue: The Heart of the Jewish Quarter
Until last year, the Hurva Synagogue was commemorated in the Old City with a huge 16-meter arch, which itself became known as a landmark of the Jewish Quarter. That arch has now been incorporated into the restoration process.
The word “Hurva” is Hebrew for “ruin,” and that may be appropriate to the synagogue’s turbulent history. The original synagogue was built in the early 1700’s by congregants of Rabbi Yehuda heHasid. But the community, which comprised impoverished Jews living in Jerusalem, was unable to pay its debt to the Muslims who had lent them money for the building.
In consequence, the Muslims angrily destroyed the synagogue and expelled the community from Jerusalem. It was nearly a century later before the synagogue would be rebuilt once again, this time by disciples of the highly revered Jewish leader, the Vilna Gaon.
This time, the synagogue was to endure for centuries, its massive dome a conspicuous landmark in the Jerusalem skyline. Its interior was noted for its exceptional artwork, both in painting, metalwork and sculpture. A magnificent platinum menorah graced the synagogue, along with many other silver works of Judaica art. When the Jordanians destroyed the synagogue in 1948, they also plundered these items of value.
The Hurva is currently being restored to an almost exact replica of the 19th century building. The hope is that it will once again serve as a beacon for Jews throughout Jerusalem and the world.
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