Ever since the destruction of their second Temple in fiery conflagration sparked by an invading power (a destruction blamed on infighting and hubris in the Talmud), with the intervening two millennia spent usually firmly under the thumb of larger religious groups, the Jews have shied away from monumental religious buildings. But once ensconced again in their homeland, free from the capricious dictates of triumphalist Christians and Muslims, the monument-building impulse has returned to the Jewish character with a vengeance - and while the Third Temple remains a pipe dream, other religious structures dotting the landscape seem to aspire to be approximations, especially the Great Synagogue on King George Street.
The towering edifice, built largely through a donation from a British Jewish philanthropist, went up in 1982 next door to Heichal Shlomo, the seat of the Israeli Rabbinate, and its grand expanse, with capacity for 1400 worshipers, consciously calls to mind the glory of Herod's Temple. Services are daily, with Shabbat morning drawing the largest crowd. The synagogue is mainline Israeli Orthodox; head coverings are required and women and men sit in separate sections. Visitors can also enjoy the large private collection of mezuzot in the foyer.
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