Maghen Abraham Synagogue under renovation in Beirut City

05Aug09

magen_abraham_synagogue_lebanon

Renovation of the dilapid­ated synagogue in Beyrouth’s Centre-Ville began on the weekend after ayears-long delay, according to the Lebanese Jewish Community Council. Beirut’s oldest and last remaining synagogue Maghen Abraham in Wadi Abou Jamil, damaged by Israeli shelling during Israel’s 1982 invasion, is finally undergoing much-needed restoration after suffering several set-backs.

The damage meant the synagogue has been abandoned for the last 30 years, leaving the Lebanese Jewish community without a place of worship, but it is now beginning to see some life again; the rusty padlocked gate has been removed and scaffolding has been erected in the synagogue’s interior.

Restoration is now starting to be made to the gaping hole in the building’s roof and the chandeliers that once hung from the ceiling and the benches that were used for prayer are set to be returned to their former state.

The project to renovate the synagogue was scheduled to begin in 2006 but work was postponed due to instability in the country following the 34-day war with Israel.

The work is said to be costing around $1 million and could take up to a year to complete, according to Lebanese Jewish Community Council, the non-profit organization in charge of the renovation effort.

Much of the funding has come from the 65-year-old leader of the diminishing community, Isaac Arazi, who has already managed to raise $40,000 from private donors in the expatriate Lebanese Jewish community and other anonymous benefactors in the diaspora.

Solidere, the construction firm responsible for much of Central Beirut’s Civil War rebuilding work, has also agreed to donate $150,000 toward the renovation effort. The company also donated a further $2 million to 14 different religious organizations in Lebanon to help them restore their places of worship.

Solidere’s reconstruction contract with the synagogue ensures that the place of worship remains under the ownership of the Jewish community and the building will not be destroyed.

The long-anticipated work was well received on the weekend, with one member of the synagogue’s Facebook group writing: “Finally! Let’s enjoy the integration and multi ethnicities in our beautiful Middle East.”
Another expressed her optimism of a prosperous future for the community: “[I] really hope that all synagogues in Lebanon will be renovated and that no religion or sect will feel marginalized or outside the society.”
However, one of the architects bidding for the renovation contract said on Friday that the project still faces big obstacles due to its proximity to the home of incoming Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The government’s current tight security measures in the surrounding area mean construction costs could well be driven up and the project prolonged, the source, who did not wish for his name to be used, is quoted by Global Post as saying.
He said various restrictions have been placed on the construction work, including a prohibitive work schedule and a ban on any scaffolding being erected on the building’s exterior.
However, he believes that the positive signs of political life that have followed the calm Leban-ese elections show that now is the time for the work to begin.
Maghen Abraham, located in the former Jewish quarter, is one of the last remaining symbols of Lebanon’s vanishing Jewish community, which is now estimated to have just 100-150 members, down from the thousands-strong numbers it saw in the first half of the 20th century. Despite this, Judaism is still one of the 17 officially-recognized faiths in Lebanon.
Built in 1925, the synagogue served as the hub of the thriving community in the 1940s.
The renovation project was first given the green light by the late former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and has since received the public support of outgoing Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and March 8’s Hizbullah, with a party spokesman quoted as saying that any restoration work to the place of worship is welcome


5 Responses to “Maghen Abraham Synagogue under renovation in Beirut City”

  1. Hi there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and
    found that it is really informative. I am gonna
    watch out for brussels. I will be grateful if you continue this in future.
    Numerous people will be benefited from your writing.
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  2. 2 desert

    this message comes a little too late but is directed to wissam and serpico.

    Lebanese is lebanese whatever your religion is so to answer your statement that you made out of ignorance maybe out of all the leb jews that i know every single last one of them would want and have visited. As to who is gonna pray in it ya serpico? well gee it doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out.

    where do you pray? nobody is asking you to pray anywhere but a place of worship no matter what sect or religion should not be destroyed, vandalized should be kept intact. Any person with morals and some intelligence should know that

  3. C’est un beau pas en avant vers le respect d’autrui (en plus cet “autrui” ne sont autre que des libanais aussi)
    J’espere que ca ne sera pas aux yeux de certains une excuse pour d’autres debuts de problemes interminables..

  4. Serpio: Lebanese Jews, and who ever Jew visits Lebanon and wants to.

  5. I wonder who’s gonna pray in it :P


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