Friday, November 21, 2008

Crisis scuttles Beirut synagogue restoration

The global financial crisis has put paid to plans to restore the Maghen Avraham synagogue, reports AP. But could Lebanon's continuing instability be the real reason why would-be donors have cold feet?

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) — One of Lebanon's sole remaining synagogues was set to get a restoration that has the rare blessing of all the factions in this divided country — even that of the anti-Israeli Hezbollah. But the global financial crisis has scuttled the effort for now, leaving the Magen Abraham chained, padlocked, badly damaged and rife with weeds.

The synagogue, like the country's once-thriving Jewish community, fell prey to the savage 1975-90 civil war (In fact 90 percent left after 1967 - ed). Once the fighting ended, the few dozen Jews who remained could not maintain the proud old structure.

A $1 million project set to begin in November had been organized by the Lebanese Jewish community to restore the two-story ramshackle building which is now surrounded by the gleaming new skyscrapers of Beirut's downtown building boom.

But potential overseas Jewish donors who were to provide the bulk of the funds said the reconstruction would have to wait because of the hard times brought on by the global financial crisis, said Isaac Arazi, leader of the country's tiny Jewish community ('self-proclaimed' leader, as nobody in the Lebanese Jewish diaspora appears to have heard of him -ed).

"I'll wait for two or three months. If no money is forthcoming, I'll launch a fundraising campaign in America and Europe for the rebuilding project," he told The Associated Press.

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