Grapevine: Restoring glorious Aleppo in Nahlaot

The destruction of some of Jerusalem’s historic buildings and monuments does not mean that none are destined for preservation.

Visitation Church in Ein Kerem 521 (photo credit: AP)
Visitation Church in Ein Kerem 521
(photo credit: AP)
THE DESTRUCTION of some of Jerusalem’s historic buildings and monuments does not mean that none are destined for preservation.
The Jerusalem Municipality has decided to restore the historic murals of the Ades Synagogue in Nahlaot. The synagogue, also known as the Great Synagogue of the the glorious Aleppo community, was founded by Syrian immigrants at the turn of the 20th century, and is renowned for its Syrian liturgy.
It is also known for its extraordinary interior décor, the work of celebrated artist Ya’acov Stark and his students from Bezalel.
The Ades synagogue, built in 1901, was recently designated as a National Heritage Site. Some members of Syria’s Jewish community, fleeing from blood libels and persecution, settled in Jerusalem, while others went to England, the United States and Latin America. Most of those who came to Jerusalem were not wealthy, but they longed for an impressive place of worship.
Their dream became a reality thanks to two affluent cousins, Yosef and Ovadiah Josiah Ades.
Yosef was a member of the Jerusalem City Council and also had good connections with the Turkish administration. When completed, the synagogue – in traditional Middle Eastern style – was considered to be the most beautiful in Jerusalem. It also acquired some exquisite ritual objects, including the ark, which was transported from Haleb in Syria by camel and donkey. The synagogue was damaged during World War I and the War of Independence, but continued to function and to perpetuate the Syrian synagogue traditions.
At the beginning of 2009, the synagogue board decided to renovate the premises, but did not adhere to the rules of preservation or to the city’s building requirements. As a result much of Stark’s monumental work was destroyed.
The municipality stepped in and decided to save what could be saved. Tamar Koch, who heads the municipality’s department for preservation, will keep her eye on the restoration project, and is already looking at other old buildings to ensure that the people using them understand that the murals and other art integral to any building are no less valuable historically than the building itself.
■ THIS YEAR marks the 50th anniversary of the Eichmann trial, which began on April 11, 1961. The Israel Friends of the Hebrew University have decided to give more substance to International Holocaust Remembrance Day, on January 27, by commemorating the anniversary of the trial almost three months ahead of time. This decision becomes particularly pertinent in view of the recent disclosure that German intelligence was well aware of Adolf Eichmann’s whereabouts for several years before he was located in a joint Mossad-General Security Service operation, captured and brought to Israel. Presumably German intelligence also knew about other high-ranking Nazis who were not tracked down by the Mossad and therefore lived out their lives unpunished.
Many of the people associated with the capture and trial of Eichmann have died in the interim, but several are still alive and some of them – including Mossad agents, members of the El Al crew that brought him to Israel, police investigators, journalists and former Supreme Court justice Gabriel Bach, who was a deputy prosecutor at the trial – will participate in an IFHU day-long seminar to be held at the Gerard Behar Center.
It can safely be assumed that lawyer Tami Naveh – the daughter of chief prosecutor Gideon Hausner, who died just over 20 years ago – will also be present. Hausner’s opening address at the trial has become one of the classics of 20th-century Jewish history.
The venue of the seminar, in that it was formerly known as Beit Ha’am, and was converted to a courthouse for the trial. Brief addresses will also be presented by Hebrew University president Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Ben-Gurion University president Prof. Rivka Carmi.
■ THE TOURISM Ministry and the municipality, which are both interested in promoting Christian tourism to Jerusalem, this week launched a new pilgrimage itinerary in Ein Kerem: “In the footsteps of the Virgin Mary.” The inaugural ceremony at the Eden- Tamir Music Center was held in the presence of Tourism Ministry Director-General Noaz Bar-Nir, Custodian of the Holy Land Father Pier Batista Pizzabella and leading figures of the Catholic Church. The Na’ama Women’s Choir sang in English, Hebrew and Arabic.
The new itinerary includes visits to the places where Mary lived and traveled with Jesus.
The route includes her birthplace in Tzipori in Galilee; Nazareth, which is the site of Mary’s Well and the Mary of Nazareth International Center; Elijah’s Cave, where according to Christian tradition the Holy Family rested on its way back from Egypt; Ein Kerem, which Mary visited during her pregnancy, and Abu Ghosh, where there is a large statue of Mary in the courtyard of the Church of Notre Dame de l’Arche de l’Alliance. The Tourism Ministry has published a booklet in English to be translated into several languages, primarily those of countries with large Catholic populations, with detailed information about the sites throughout the itinerary, including their accessibility.