Syria accuses Israel of stealing artifacts from Damascus

UN ambassador Bashar Jaafari says religious books smuggled from Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Jobar to New York via Istanbul

Detail from a photograph of the Jobar Synagogue in  Damascus, circa 2013. (Moti Kahana)
Detail from a photograph of the Jobar Synagogue in Damascus, circa 2013. (Moti Kahana)

Syria has accused Israel of stealing ancient and valuable Jewish artifacts from a historic synagogue in Damascus.

In an official complaint filed with the United Nations Security Council last week, Syria accused Israel of smuggling religious books and other artifacts from the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, in cooperation with Turkey and with terrorist groups operating in the area.

The Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, located in the Jobar district of Damascus, is believed to be built on the spot where the prophet Elijah is thought to have hid in a cave and in the place where Elijah is said to have anointed the prophet Elisha.

Jobar was home to a large Jewish community for hundreds of years, but by the mid-19th century, only a few families remained.

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

The synagogue was said to have been mostly destroyed in mortar attacks during a May 2014 battle between troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebel troops. The synagogue reportedly was looted following the battle

According to a plaque on the building, the synagogue dates from 720 BCE.

Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar Jaafari wrote in the letter of what he called “credible evidence” that “the terrorist groups that are active in the area of Jobar, near Damascus, cooperated with the Turkish and Israeli intelligence services to loot artifacts and manuscripts from the ancient synagogue there.”

The letter continued: “The items were then smuggled through local and foreign intermediaries to Istanbul, where they were received by antiquities experts who certified that they were extremely valuable antique objects. The items were subsequently smuggled to New York.”

Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny called Syria’s accusations: “Another attempt by the Syrian regime to draw attention away from the horrible atrocities it commits against its own people.”

“While the Assad regime continues mercilessly slaughtering innocent civilians and children, Israel continues giving humanitarian aid to Syrian residents and treating Syrian wounded that arrive at its doorstep,” Danon also said.

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