The Jerusalem Municipality awarded initial approval to a plan to rebuild the iconic Tiferet Israel synagogue in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter, a magnificent domed synagogue from the 19th century which was destroyed in the 1948 War of Independence.
The project will recreate the three-story-tall synagogue as well as the iconic dome on the top, with only minor changes to the original, such as the introduction of an elevator to make the building more accessible. On Tuesday, the municipality’s Local Planning and Building Committee approved the plan for the next step of the process, where it must receive the approval of the Interior Ministry. An anonymous donor who has been active in previous rebuilding projects in the Old City donated nearly NIS 50 million needed for reconstruction, said Shlomi Attias, the Old City project manager for The Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem Ltd. (JQDC). The JQDC is a public company under the auspices of the Ministry of Construction and Housing. The synagogue is located just a few hundred meters from the Western Wall Plaza, in the same plaza as the Hurva.
Ashkenazi hassidim bought the land for Tiferet Israel Synagogue in 1843, though the building wasn’t inaugurated until 1872. The synagogue is also known as the Nissan Bek synagogue, after its founder. The prominent white dome on top of the building was informally known as “Franz Joseph’s cap,” after the Austrian emperor who visited Jerusalem in 1869. On a tour of Jewish sites, Franz Joseph inquired as to why the unfinished synagogue had no dome, to which one quick-thinking rabbi replied, ''Your majesty the Emperor, the synagogue has doffed its hat for you!'' The emperor donated the sum needed to finish the roof.
During the Independence War in 1948, the building was used as a Haganah defense position, similar to the nearby Hurva synagogue. Arab League forces demolished the synagogue with explosives at 1 a.m. on May 21, just a few days before the Hurva met the same fate. Following the Six Day War, the city decided to leave the ruins of the synagogue as they were.