The Sephardic Synagogues in the Jewish Quarter
The Four Sephardic Synagogues evolved from Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal. In 1492, all the Jews of Spain were forced to convert to Christianity or leave. Many migrated to North Africa and the Middle East. Some settled in the old city of Jerusalem and gradually formed the Jewish Quarter. Under Ottoman rule, they enjoyed relative freedom, including permission to build synagogues.
History of the Sephardic Synagogues
The foundation date of the first Sephardic synagogue is unknown. It was named after Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai, who established Jewish Rabbinical activity after Jerusalem fell to the Romans. A space next to it, devoted to Jewish religious studies (a Yeshiva), gradually developed into a synagogue named after Prophet Elijah. Ashkenazi Jews used it for a short period. In 1733, a third hall was converted into a synagogue (the “middle” synagogue), and finally, in 1735, a fourth hall was to become a synagogue, labeled “The Istanbul Synagogue.” During the 1948 Israeli-Arab war, the Jordanians conquered the Jewish Quarter, deported its residents, plundered the synagogues, and later used them for storage or as a stable. The Six-Day War in 1967 caused, among others, the unification of Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. The Sephardic synagogues were restored and re-activated, as they are today.
Touring the Sephardic Synagogues
The Sephardic synagogues are located near the main parking lot of the Jewish Quarter. They are open every day, but they are used for prayers in the morning.
A tour of the Sephardic synagogues can be combined with a day tour of Jerusalem.