Jerusalem – Almost sixty six years to the day after its destruction, a cornerstone has been laid at a the site of a historic 19th century synagogue in Jerusalem’s Old City at an emotional ceremony that took place tonight at the start of Yom Yerushalayim in the Jewish Quarter.
The Tiferes Yisrael Synagogue, built by Rabbi Nissan Beck, was dedicated in 1872 and the three story edifice, famed for its beauty, served as the center for Jerusalem’s Chasidic community for 76 years.
The synagogue, which is adjacent to the site of the Hurva Synagogue, was used as a command center by the Haganah during Israel’s War of Independence and was blown up in May 1948 by the Jordanian Legion after it captured the Old City, with only its western wall remaining partially intact.
Plans to reconstruct Tiferes Yisrael were announced in 2010 at the dedication of the rebuilt Hurva Synagogue and the municipality of Jerusalem approved the plans, funded by an anonymous donor, in November 2012. With artifacts from the period of both the first and second Batei Mikdash found in the area, the restoration process is likely to be a complex engineering project in order to preserve the historical nature of the area.
In an effort to maintain a physical bond with the original Tiferes Yisrael, the cornerstone used today came from the original building. Numerous public figures were present for the event, including Housing Minister Uri Ariel, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Rabbi Avigodor Nebenzahl, Rov of the Old City, Rabbi Dov Lior, Rov of Kiryat Arba and Chevron and Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rov of the Kosel and other holy sites in Israel.
“We have been privileged today to lay an additional stone in the building of Jerusalem, a symbolic step in the prophetic vision of Jerusalem’s restoration that is unfolding before our very eyes,” said Ariel. “Jerusalem is the heart of our nation and it is impossible to divide the city into pieces, in the same way that you cannot remove the heart from the body.”
Ariel also noted that a building freeze anywhere in the country was unacceptable.
“A freeze on settlements is detrimental, both in the long term and the short term, and today we renew our commitment to continue rebuilding a united Jerusalem.”
Rabbi Rabinowitz likened the ruins of the Tiferes Yisrael Synagogue to a physical injury that has afflicted the Jewish Quarter for decades.
“Today we are rebuilding just one of the ruins of the city of Jerusalem. All these years, these ruins have been an open wound on the heart of the city,” said Rabbi Rabinowitz. “Today we are laying the first stone of Tiferes Yisrael which will one day literally live up to its name, bringing glory to Israel.”
Former chairman of development in the Jewish Quarter, MK Moti Yogev, described the incredible joy of laying a cornerstone for the Tiferes Yisrael Synagogue on the eve of Yom Yerushalayim.
“The honor of this building will be even greater than that of the original,” predicted Yogev.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat noted the historic nature of today’s events.
“We are laying a cornerstone for one of the most prominent symbols of Jerusalem’s Jewish community for generations, symbolizing the unbreakable connection between us and the city of Jerusalem. A few years ago we re-dedicated the magnificent Hurva Synagogue that was rebuilt anew and we are proud to restore and to rebuild Tiferes Yisrael. The municipality understands the profound significance of restoring Jerusalem’s heritage and we will continue to do everything possible to continue restoring Israel’s proud tradition in Jerusalem.”