Maghen Abraham Synagogue

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This article is about the synagogue in Beirut, Lebanon. For the synagogue in Ahmedabad, India, see Magen Abraham Synagogue. For other uses, see Maghen Abraham (disambiguation).

Coordinates: 33°53′50.81″N 35°30′0.36″E / 33.8974472°N 35.5001000°E / 33.8974472; 35.5001000

Maghen Avraham Synagogue
Basic information
Location Lebanon Beirut, Lebanon
Affiliation Judaism
Rite Sephardic
District Wadi Abu Jamil
Status open
Leadership Lebanese jewish community(Michel Cohen)
Website Official website
Architectural description
Completed 1925

The Maghen Abraham Synagogue (Arabic: كنيس ماغين أبراهام‎ - "Kanīs Mā'ghīn Abrā'hām"; Hebrew: בית הכנסת מגן אברהם‎ - "Beth HaKenesset Maghen Abraham") is one of the main synagogues in Lebanon.

Located in the Jewish district of Wadi Abu Jamil in Beirut, the synagogue was destroyed during the Lebanese Civil War. Restoration of the synagogue began in May 2009. In August 2010, renovations were nearing completion, with finishing touches being made to the interior of the building.[1][2]

According to a Muslim lawyer who handles the affairs of Jews in Beirut, the synagogue has no furniture and there is only 2 rabbis to lead the synagogue. He denied reports in 2014 that the synagogue would be reopened.[3]

History[edit]

An older synagogue in Beirut was demolished in 502 by a great earthquake which destroyed several cities in Syria.[4]Maghen Abraham was constructed in 1925 and named after the son of Abraham Sassoon, Moise Abraham Sassoon of Calcutta, on land donated by Isaac Mann. It was designed by the architect Bindo Manham and construction was overseen by Ezra Benjamin and Joseph Balaya."[5] Because of insufficient funding, the head of the Jewish community, Josef Farhi, helped in completing the interior. The synagogue was also used for Torah and scientific lectures, weddings and other festive events.[6]

In the 1950s and 1960s there were sixteen synagogues in Beirut and they were all full, according to a Lebanese expatriate who moved from Beirut to Paris in 2003. Jews were entitled to the same rights as other minorities and the number of Jews was increasing even after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, by which time there were about 14,000 Jews in Lebanon.[7] Even during the PLO's control of the area in the 1975-6 conflict guards were placed on the synagogue for its protection.[8] In 1976, a year after the civil war began, Joseph Farhi transferred the Torah scrolls from the synagogue to Geneva and entrusted to renowned Jewish-Lebanese banker Edmond Safra, who preserved them in his bank's coffers. Most of them have since been relocated to Sephardic synagogues in Israel.[9]

Maghen Abraham Synagogue in Beirut, Lebanon, prior to restoration.

Although the greater part of the community had already emigrated after the 1958 Crisis and the Lebanese Civil War, there were approximately 100 Jewish families still living in the quarters of the synagogue prior to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. During the 1982 Lebanon war, Yasir Arafat's PLO forces and the Christian Phalangists were situated in Wadi Abu Jamil, leading to Israeli suspicion of there being Palestinian weapons in the quarter. On 12 August 1982, an Israeli bombardment damaged the synagogue. The synagogue was abandoned after Israeli shells hit the building, leaving rubble and debris strewn across the floor. Two marble tablets representing the Ten Commandments and a marble Star of David were also shattered. Dozens of Jewish families were among those displaced by shelling of the area.[8][10]

Renovation plans[edit]

In the process of rebuilding Beirut following the 2006 Lebanon War, renovations of the ruined synagogue began in 2009. The project's authorization were agreed by the Lebanese government, Hezbollah, and other community leaders, in a move that shows Lebanon's commitment to the Jewish community rights in Lebanon. The renovation, funded by $200,000 worth of private donations, also received a $150,000 grant from Solidere, a Lebanese construction firm privately owned by the family of Rafik Hariri.[2][11]

Maghen Abraham has a daughter synagogue in Canada, Congregation Maghen Abraham (Montreal).

Long ago, there was a decision by the late former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, to restore the synagogue and surround it with a garden. However the restoration never took place. The neighboring Talmudic school was demolished so that other new buildings would keep the view of the beach nearby.[12]

Regardless, by the spring of 2008, the Jewish expatriates expressed their desire to renovate the synagogue. They wished to proceed once stability within Lebanon improved.[13] Long afterwards, the expatriates stated that the synagogue, along with the Jewish cemetery in Sodeco, would be renovated from October 2008. According to Bloomberg, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora was quoted as saying:

Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, welcomed the renovation, saying "This is a religious place of worship and its restoration is welcome." Also, Hussain Rahal, a spokesman for Hezbollah, said his group also supported the restoration of the synagogue: "We respect the Jewish religion just like we do Christianity. The Jews have always lived among us. We have an issue with Israel's occupation of land."[14]

Fundings had already been received by the 65-year-old leader of the minute Jewish community, Isaac Arazi. Arazi estimated that the synagogue would require up to $1 million for renovation. He managed to raise up to $40,000 for the project, promising more to come. Solidere SAL, civil-engineering company owned by the Hariri family, had also given $150,000 to each of 14 religious organizations that are restoring places of worship in Lebanon, about $2.1 million in all. "We help all the communities," said Solidere chairman Nasser Chammaa.[14][15] Also, in Switzerland, a couple of banks, whose owners were of Lebanese-Jewish roots, had agreed to provide financing. One offered a sum of $100,000, but Arazi declined to mention its name.[14][15]

The restoration was due to have started in November 2008, but the global financial crisis delayed those plans.[16] However, renovation has started,[17] as other construction projects around the area are being executed.[18] As of October 2010, the Renovations were nearing completion.

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Stern, Yoav (May 27, 2009). "Beirut shul to be refurbished, and even Hezbollah's on board". Haaretz. Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  2. ^ a b "Beirut synagogue restored to glory, despite tensions with Israel". 
  3. ^ Contrary to reports, Beirut synagogue not planned to reopen, Jerusalem Post
  4. ^ The Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. II, New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1916, p. 647
  5. ^ The Jews of Lebanon: Between coexistence and Conflict, 2nd Ed, Kristen schulze, sussex press 2009, p42
  6. ^ Levi, Tomer (November 19, 1998). "'Magen-Abraham' synagogue in Beirut, Lebanon". » History - Maghen Abraham in Lebanon. Corporation Maghen Abraham Canada. Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  7. ^ http://www.resetdoc.org/story/00000000068
  8. ^ a b Pity the nation, by Robert Fisk. Page 325
  9. ^ According to the Juifs du Liban.
  10. ^ "Beirut's Only Synagogue Is Casualty of The Israelis". The New York Times. August 12, 1982. 
  11. ^ "Beirut shul to be refurbished, and even Hezbollah's on board". 
  12. ^ Martina, Toti (October 27, 2006). "When Arafat protected the Jews". Dialogues on Civilizations. Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  13. ^ "Beirut's Jewish heritage under threat - 20 Apr 2008". Youtube.com. April 20, 2008. 
  14. ^ a b c Derhally, Massoud (September 18, 2008). "Lebanon Jews Tap Diaspora to Rebuild Beirut's Shelled Synagogue". Bloomberg.com. 
  15. ^ a b Derhally, Massoud (September 18, 2008). "Lebanon Jews Tap Diaspora to Rebuild Beirut's Shelled Synagogue". Thejewsoflebanon.org. 
  16. ^ Kampeas, Ron (November 21, 2008). "Lebanese shul restoration on hold". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  17. ^ Lebanese Jewish Community Council
  18. ^ Antelava, Natalia (January 31, 2010). "New synagogue opens religious debate in Lebanon". BBC news. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]