“Anyone standing on one of the hills surrounding Jerusalem will be able to see the dome of this synagogue among the houses, as big as the moon among the stars”. This is how Rabbi Yoshya Yosef Rivlin expressed his excitement at the consecration of the synagogue.
Few buildings come to be such significant symbols of the landscape of a city, much less a symbol-filled city like Jerusalem.
“Beit Yaakov” Synagogue or “The Hurva” has over the years gained this unique and significant status. The synagogue’s surroundings have also been one of the prominent sites of the Jewish settlement of Jerusalem, in particular after its construction was completed in 1864.
Some of the most important institutions of the Ashkenazi community in Jerusalem have been located around the synagogue: Etz Chaim Yeshiva, the Rabbinical Court, charity institutions and Torah study halls – institutions that made up the characteristics of Jewish life in Jerusalem from the nineteenth century until modern times.
A visit to the rebuilt synagogue will allow you to marvel at the unique beauty of the interior of the synagogue, to see one of the tallest Torah arks in the world and hear the story of the place. You will also be able to see its history on the archeology floor in the synagogue’s basement. And best of all, admire the magnificent view from the balcony of the synagogue’s dome, for 360° views of Jerusalem.
In 1700, something happened in Jerusalem – Rabbi Judah the Pious and a large group of Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants stood at the gates of Jerusalem, excited and hopeful, and with a thankful prayer entered the Ashkenazi Courtyard in the Jewish Quarter, where an old synagogue stood before them. Members of the community were hoping to see the coming of the messiah in the Holy City, but their hope soon turned to tragedy and their happiness to grief – just a few days after their arrival, Rabbi Judah the Pious passed away. The Ashkenazim, left without a leader and with no source of income, were forced to take hefty loans from the Muslims of Jerusalem, with no way of repaying them. Ten years after their arrival, up to their necks in severe debt, the Muslim creditors attacked the Ashkenazi Courtyard, destroying it and the synagogue within it, which has been known ever since as “The Hurva” (“the Ruin”). Only a small community of Ashkenazim remained in the city, and in the early 19th century, they were joined by Ashkenazi Perushim, disciples of the Vilna Gaon. Only once the international political situation had changed during the 19th century, when the Ottoman Empire weakened, and with the involvement of Moshe Montefiore, were the Jews allowed to re-establish the synagogue, which was completed in 1864. It was named “Beit Yaakov” (“House of Jacob” after Jakob Rothschild, whose family donated a substantial sum towards building the synagogue), but also “The Hurva Synagogue” or “Rabbi Judah the Pious Synagogue”. Alongside it, additional Torah and charitable institutions were built, such as the Etz Chaim Yeshiva, near which the well-known Rabbi Shmuel Salant lived, who led the Ashkenazi community for dozens of years. Over the years, the synagogue, whose dome towers above its surroundings, has become the symbol of the Jewish Quarter. The British High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, prayed here, this was where the disbanded Legion flags were brought after the First World War, and during the holocaust, this was where Rabbis called out to the nations of the world to save the Jews that were being exterminated by the Nazis.
During the War of Independence, in late May 1948, the Jordanians bombed the Synagogue building and destroyed it for the second time. It was left in ruins even after the reunification of Jerusalem in the Six Day War, primarily due to disputes over the appropriate way to restore it. In the early 2000s, the Israeli government decided that the synagogue was to be restored, and work was completed in 2010.
After 62 years of laying in ruins, the sounds of prayer and Torah teaching have returned to the Hurva of Rabbi Judah the Pious.
A visit to the synagogue is a moving experience, owing both to its historical symbolic status and its unique architectural properties: its interior is most impressive, its Torah ark is one of the largest in the Jewish world, and its rooftop offers breathtaking panoramic views of the entire Old City.
Recommendation of the Company for the Development of the Jewish Quarter: When visiting the synagogue, don’t forget to go down to the basement level, where you will find a historical gem: Mikvehs from the Second Temple period, a Byzantine-period gated street and buildings from the Mamluk period. Alongside these, while restoring the synagogue, a hidden cache of weapons was found from the period of struggle that preceded the establishment of the State of Israel.
*You must bring this ticket with you
*Admission to the site is during opening hours: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., based on available space on Mondays and Thursdays admission will be from 11:00 a.m.
*The ticket allows admission to the site, self-guided.
*Cancellation terms: up to 3 business days before the visit, cancelling after this will be charged at the full price.