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ramban synagogue

Almost hidden beneath the grand Hurvah synagogue, the Ramban synagogue is the oldest Rabbinical synagogue in Jerusalem. Although humble in size, it attracts many locals, and being open for all, it offers a peek to the special lifestyle of ultra-orthodox Jews.

History and Archaeology of the Ramban Synagogue

The Ramban synagogue is said to have been founded by the Rabbi Moshe bar Nachman Girondi in 1267. Known by his acronym “Ramban”, in his visit he found much neglect in the Jerusalem, and only a few Jews who worked as painters. He formed a synagogue, apparently on Mount Zion, but it was moved to its current location in the 14th century, when Jews settled in today’s Jewish Quarter. In the 15th century Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura described it as ”  built upon columns, and it is long and narrow..” Indeed the structure is narrow and long, and has a single row of columns. Its capitals are possibly column bases from late antiquity, but its vaults are typical to the time of the Crusaders. In the 16th century CE the Ottomans authorities ordered to lock it because of “noisy ceremonies” disturbing the Muslims in the adjacent mosque. During the following centuries the synagogue became a flour mill, a cheese factory and even a mosque. Only in 1967, after the six-day war, the building was reverted to a synagogue, exactly 700 years since its foundation.

Did the Ramban synagogue have a Quran?

Among others, the Ramban synagogue is also unusual for having to “arks” to hold torah scroll. By local tradition one was added as the Muslim authorities in the past forced the Jewish community to also hold a Quran in the synagogue.

Touring the Ramban Synagogue

Today the Ramban Synagogue serves the local Ashkenazi community, but is open for all to visit, free of charge. A tour of the Ramban synagogue can be combined in a day tour of Jerusalem.

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