It is not often that a new structure makes an appearance in the confines of the Old City; however, one such building makes its home in the heart of the Jewish Quarter. To be specific, to call the Hurva Synagogue a "new structure" would actually be a bit misleading, since the original foundations on which the synagogue was built dates back hundreds of years. Destroyed by Muslims in the year 1721, the ruined plot became known as The Ruin, or Hurva. It took 140 years for the synagogue to finally be rebuilt to its former glory. However, disaster struck again in the 1948 war and the synagogue was stripped to ruins for a second time. Here is a historic photo of the Hurva Synagogue sticking out in the skyline below (the white domed roof) prior to the 1948 destruction of the synagogue.
This image shows the process of destruction of the Hurva Synagogue in the year 1948 during the Arab-Israeli war which established the state of Israel. An emotional scene as you can see below.
And this is what remained of the synagogue after the destruction and explosions had dissipated and subsided following the 1948 war. It's hard to imagine this happened just 60-some years ago right in the center of today's bustling Old City.
For nearly 60 years, a memorial arch stood in place of the Hurva Synagogue, marking the place where the temple once stood. Ever since 1948, plans were in the making to finance the restoration and rebuilding of the historic synagogue. For the time being, the arch would stand out as a symbol of the struggles that had ensued in that location and the hope yet for a brighter future.
During the past 10 years, if you visited Israel and walked through the Old City, you likely saw cranes and construction going on in the Jewish Quarter, visible from many vantage points in the Old City. Reason being that the restoration of the Hurva Synagogue was finally under way. People really didn't know what to expect. Visitors and locals alike were told that the synagogue would be reconstructed to look just like the original. In March of 2010, the completed structure finally made its grand opening and it was more beautiful than ever before. You can clearly see in the images below that same memorial arch in the wall of the synagogue which was built upon in order to create the completed look that we see today:
Because I was living here in Jerusalem when this happened, I was able to notice firsthand when the construction walls came down, revealing a completed look to the central heart of the Jewish Quarter. These photos truly don't do the area justice. The heart of the Jewish Quarter is a bustling area full of shops, eateries, restaurants and Judaica shops all centered around an open-air central plaza where the Hurva Synagogue is the crown jewel. Of course if you walk just a short ways you will find the Cardo (Roman ruins and modern day shops) to one side and the famous Western Wall on the other side, just a few minutes' walk away.
Visitation to the Hurva Synagogue is a rather dodgy issue and the hours and possibilities are unclear. I do know that the synagogue is open to the public during morning prayer from 6 - 9 am, free of charge, so if you're interested to go inside, you may do so at that time. Because specific touring options change sporadically, the best option is to check directly with the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, Ltd for specifics. Click here to follow the link to the organization's website.
After a tumultuous history, the Hurva Synagogue has finally been rectified to its former glory. And thus, the Jewish Quarter's skyline is once again centered around that recognizable white dome which has been a staple of the area. Visiting the area, you will surely be surrounded by the ooh's and ahh's of visiting tourists who are aware of the long history in the making that this special synagogue has undergone.