J'lem to rebuild iconic synagogue destroyed in 1948
Anonymous donor donates money to rebuild Tifereth Israel, located near Western Wall.
Tifereth Israel synagogue before it was destroyed Photo: Tifereth Israel Archives
The Jerusalem Municipality awarded initial approval to a plan to rebuild the
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
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
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 Construction and Housing Ministry.
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
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 War of
Independence in 1948, the building was used as a Hagana defense position,
similar to the nearby Hurva synagogue. Arab League forces demolished the
synagogue with explosives at 1:00 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.
“The municipality sees great
importance in preserving and rebuilding Jerusalem’s heritage sites,” Jerusalem
mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement released by his office. “The Tifereth
Israel synagogue was a symbol of the Jewish “Yishuv” (settlement) in Jerusalem
and we are proud to bring it back and rebuild it anew.”
Attias of the
JQDC, which is overseeing the project, said that the required archaeological
excavations can begin soon, even before the project receives the final approval
Actual construction will take at least three years as
the site is difficult for construction vehicles to access.
Post first reported plans to rebuild the Tifereth Israel Synagogue in June. A
UNESCO report expressed apprehension over the project due to the possibility of
widespread rioting. In March 2010, riots broke out across east Jerusalem and the
Old City with the dedication of the Hurva Synagogue.
which stood since the early 18th century, was also destroyed in the 1948 War of