Syrian troops destroy ancient synagogue

Syrian troops destroy ancient synagogue

Video posted by rebels shows heavy damage to 2,000-year-old Jobar Synagogue, one of Syria's holiest sites for Jews

Inscription on the Jobar Synagogue, near Damascus, Syria (photo credit: screen capture YouTube)
Inscription on the Jobar Synagogue, near Damascus, Syria (photo credit: screen capture YouTube)

One of the oldest synagogues in the world was partially destroyed by Syrian government shelling, according to a video posted to YouTube overnight Friday.

The Jobar Synagogue, located in a suburb of Damascus, is approximately 2,000 years old, and is said to have been built on top of a cave where the prophet Elijah concealed himself from persecution.

Syrian rebel sources reported that regime troops had fired mortars at the building. The video, uploaded by the Syrian opposition’s military council, appears to show that portions of the building and roof were blown off, with debris seen on the ground in front of the synagogue. The condition of the inside of the building is unclear from the video.

An inscription in English reads, “Shrine and synagogue of prophet Eliahou Hanabi since 720 B.C.,” although the actual date of founding is disputed. One of the earliest mentions of the synagogue is in the Talmud, which states that Rabbi Rafram bar Pappa prayed there.

The synagogue is one of Syria’s holiest sites for Jews.

Syria’s Jewish community faced rampant discrimination after the establishment of Israel. With Jewish property rights severely limited, the synagogue was taken over and converted to a school for Palestinian refugees.

The nearly two-year-old civil war in Syria has caused damage to six World Heritage sites, according to Al Arabiya. UNESCO called for the protection of the country’s cultural heritage sites last March, expressing “grave concern” at the time.

The UN estimates that nearly 70,000 people have died in the fighting between Assad regime forces and Syrian rebels.

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