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The Hurva Synagogue is the biggest in the old city of Jerusalem. It stands in the heart of the Jewish quarter and functions as an active Yeshiva and synagogue. The synagogue is also a tourist attraction, as the current structure is a well-executed replica of the 19th-century structure.

History of the Hurva Synagogue

A small synagogue had already stood in the heart of the Jewish quarter in the 14th century, but it was poorly maintained and, at times, banned for use by Muslim authorities. It eventually collapsed in 1692, yet rebuilt in 1700 with funds raised by Rabbi Yudah Hahasid. Sadly, the second synagogue stood for only 20 years. In 1720, Muslims knocked it down in claim of Jewish depts. The destroyed synagogue got to be known by its nickname – “the Hurva” (Hebrew for “the ruined [structure].”

hurva synagogueIn 1857, Montefiore sponsored the restoration of the synagogue. This time, the building was well-financed and had imposing dimensions. The Byzantine-era Hagia Sofia building from Istanbul inspired its general design. Its interior was decorated with an ornate Torah ark and wall paintings. Sadly, this structure, too, was destroyed by the Jordanians in the 1948 Israeli-Arab war. For 19 years, the whole Jewish quarter was in ruins, and even after the Six-Day War, the synagogue remained unbuilt for many years. Finally, in 2010, the synagogue was restored, replicating the 19th-century synagogue. A meticulous conservation project recreated the original design, the Torah ark, and the colorful murals.

Visiting the Hurva Synagogue

The synagogue is a functioning Yeshiva and place of prayer. A visit to the site is limited to the women’s court and the rooftop. Nevertheless, the top view of the main prayer hall and the panoramas of the old city from the rooftop are breathtaking!

A tour of the Hurvah Synagogue can be combined with a Day Tour of Jerusalem.

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