Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lebanese synagogue restored - but who will use it?

The renovated Maghen Abraham synagogue (Y Frog) (With thanks: bh)

The Lebanese Jewish community has almost been wiped out through persecution, but you would never guess it from this gushing article in Haaretz, celebrating the 'tolerance' represented by newly-restored Maghen Avraham synagogue in central Beirut - although the conflict with Israel has little to do with the local Jews. The truth is that this building can never hope to be more than a museum. The few Jews still in Lebanon are afraid to reveal themselves, and besides, they are unlikely to attend any services, living as they do on the outskirts of the city.

The main Jewish prayer house in the Lebanese capital has been renovated beautifully, demonstrating tolerance for places of worship (but not so much tolerance for the worshippers? - ed), although there is still residual anger in the country over its conflict with Israel. The renovation of the Maghen Abraham Synagogue in downtown Beirut is nearing completion. Artists have been putting the finishing touches on the interior of the temple sanctuary, which was constructed in 1925 in the Wadi abu-Jmil district of the city, also home to the country's parliament buildings.

Renovations on the ruined synagogue in central Beirut began in 2009 after an agreement between various religious denominations and permission from the Lebanese government, planning authorities and even Hezbollah. The project received the green light after political officials and community leaders became convinced it could show that Lebanon is an open country, tolerant of many faiths including Judaism.

Renovations have included mending the gaping hole in the Moroccan-style synagogue's roof and repairing the chandeliers that once hung from it. The Torah ark and prayer benches will also be refurbished to their former states, having been seriously damaged in fighting between Muslim and Christian forces during the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war.

Several dozen Jews still living in Lebanon will fund the project to the tune of $200,000, along with others in the Diaspora. The project has also received a $150,000 grant from Solidere, a construction firm tasked with rebuilding central Beirut from the destruction of the civil war. (..)

Lebanon's Jewish community is one of the country's 17 officially recognized faiths. Over the years the Lebanese Jewish community has dwindled due to emigration, including to Israel. The several dozen people in its remaining Jewish community hold few religious activities other than prayer services during the High Holidays. Many Jewish residents are in middle age or older, and affluent, and many live outside Lebanon, mostly in Europe (how can Jews be resident when they live outside Lebanon? - ed).

Read article in full

The cynicism behind the restoration of synagogues in Arab lands


Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Up to the mid-19th century, when there were sizable Jewish communities in Arab/Muslim lands, Jews were not allowed to repair synagogues in disrepair. In this regard, they were in a worse situation than the Christians.

bataween said...

The irony! So now Jews are allowed to repair synagogues in Arab lands, but not allowed to live in them...