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The Hurva Rededicated

June 1, 2010

by: Charleeda Sprinkle, Assistant Editor

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Inside, the stunning ark, where the Torah (Gen.-Deut.) scrolls are kept, draws everyone’s focus to its eastern wall. Bordered on both sides and crowned on top with whorled woodwork covered in gold leaf, the world’s largest ark stands two-stories high against a partially restored wall. Beside it stands a dressed-down miniature model of the ark where the cantor stands. The bima (podium) in the center of the room, where the Torah scroll is read, is made in like design with columns and a canopy crowned in gold.

The painted artwork, though kept to a minimum to emphasize the ark and bima, is beautifully done. In each corner is a picture of four biblical cities: Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Tiberias, and Hebron. The largest mural frames the western entrance—a depiction of Psalm 137:1: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion.” The Jewish people still weep because there is no Temple. Their yearning for it is so prominent in their hearts and minds, this psalm is recited before a wedding ceremony and the dedication of a new house.

Though the Hurva will be open at times for tourists to view, it will primarily serve as a synagogue, not a tourist attraction. Its rabbi and 200 congregants will be chosen by two committees formed by the state of Israel and the construction company. It is, however, an Ashkenazi (Jews from Russia and eastern Europe) synagogue rather than Sephardic (Jews mainly from Spain and Portugal), because its benefactors are Ukrainian and Russian, as were its benefactors when the Hurva was first built in the 1700s.

Celebrated Joyfully…and Cautiously

When plans to rebuild the Hurva were discussed following the 1967 Six Day War (when Israel regained Jerusalem),  Mayor Teddy Kolleck decided it was too bold a step to take politically. It was a bold step to take today too, as its rededication sparked Arab riots in several cities across the country for several days. Arabs claim the Hurva sits on Arab property and fear that any rebuilding near the Temple Mount threatens their Al-Aqsa Mosque and engenders Israel’s hope of building a third Temple. They also saw this event as a threat against their claims to have Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state and call the Old City “occupied territory.” When the synagogue’s new Torah scrolls were paraded from the Western Wall to the Hurva, the entrance to the Temple Mount was limited, and 3,000 police were on hand to quell any disturbance.

Nothing, however, marred the joy of the city’s Jewish populace as prayers were recited, songs of praise were sung, and the mezuzah(traditional Scripture box on the doorpost) was hung by Israel’s Chief Rabbi Yoseph Metzger. The last letter of the commissioned Torah scroll was officially inscribed and lovingly placed inside its beautiful ark. May the Lord bless those who worship there and keep and protect the Hurva from another destruction.

(To read more about the history of the Hurva, go to our online archives: Publications/Dispatch/ “The Hurva Rises Again” or your June 2008 Dispatch.)

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