Old City of Jerusalem
The Ramban Synagogue (Hebrew: בית כנסת הרמב"ן), is the second oldest active synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was founded by Nahmanides (Ramban) in 1267, to service the local Jewish community, which would expand due to its presence.
Today there are two Ramban Synagogues in Jerusalem, the original historic one described in this article stands in the Old City; and a new one, established after 1948 and rebuilt in 2005, at 4 Amatsya Street in the Katamon neighbourhood of West Jerusalem.
The foundation of the building comprises vaults resting on Romanesque and Byzantine capitals. Along with the fact that there are no Gothic or Islamic architectural features, this suggests that the original building predates the Crusader period.
After the Disputation of Barcelona, Nahmanides was exiled from Aragon, and in 1267 he made aliyah to the Land of Israel. In an alleged letter to his son, he described the Jewish community of Jerusalem devastated by the Crusades:
|“||Many are its forsaken places, and great is the desecration. The more sacred the place, the greater the devastation it has suffered. Jerusalem is the most desolate place of all. ... There are ten men who meet on the Sabbaths they hold services at their home. ... Even in its destruction, it is an exceedingly good land.||”|
Seventy two years old, he undertook the effort to rebuild the Jewish community and chose a ruined house on Mount Zion to reconstruct it as a synagogue. A number of Jews moved to Jerusalem after hearing of Nahmanides' arrival. The Torah scrolls that were evacuated to Shechem before the Mongol invasion were returned. In three weeks, for Rosh Hashanah, the synagogue was ready for use.
In 1586, the synagogue was closed under the order of the Turkish governor of Jerusalem. Subsequently, the Sephardi community established their center in the adjacent place, where the academy belonging to the tanna Yochanan ben Zakai was said to have stood during the Second Temple period. Today the Yochanan ben Zakai Synagogue stands there.
The Nahmanides Synagogue shared a wall with the Sidna Umar Mosque and was described as similar in design. Ottoman authorities issued a Firman to lock the synagogue door due to local complaints of 'noisy ceremonies' and further legal disputes were prohibited after the 1598 confiscation.
In 1835, the leaders of the community managed to obtain a permission from the Ottoman authorities for the renovation of the synagogues, which were unified into a single unit.
Over the years, the building has been the home to the Sephardi community, was converted into a mosque after being confiscated by a Mufti, and was used as a flour mill and a cheese factory. Today it is used by the Ashkenazi community.
After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the building was destroyed by the Arab Legion. As a result of the 1967 Six-Day War, Jews regained their right to the property, and 700 years after the Ramban revived the ancient building, the synagogue was reopened.
- The Ramban Synagogue; Hope Amidst Despair by Larry Domnitch (The Jewish Magazine)
- Sephardic Synagogues of Old Jerusalem
- Norman Roth (8 April 2014). "Synagogues". Medieval Jewish Civilization: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 622. ISBN 978-1-136-77155-2.
- Stillman, Norman A. (5739-1979) The Jews of Arab Lands: a history and source book. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America. p. 92 and pp. 301-302. ISBN 0-8276-0116-6.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ramban Synagogue.|
- Synagogues of the World. Jerusalem (Jewish Virtual Library)
- Moshe ben Nahman RaMBaN Synagogue (sephardiccouncil.org)
- How Nachmanides Rebuilt Jerusalem (aish.com)