The Hurva Synagogue, (Hebrew: בית הכנסת החורבה, translit:
Beit ha-Knesset ha-Hurba, lit. "The Ruin Synagogue"), also
known as Hurvat Rabbi Yehudah he-Hasid ("Ruin of Rabbi Judah
the Pious"), is a historic synagogue located in the Jewish
Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The synagogue was founded in the early 18th century by
followers of Judah he-Hasid, but it was destroyed a few
years later in 1721. The plot lay in ruins for over 140
years and became known as the Ruin, or Hurva. In 1864, the
Perushim rebuilt the synagogue, and although officially
named the Beis Yaakov Synagogue, it retained its name as the
Hurva. It became Jerusalem's main Ashkenazic synagogue,
until it too was reduced to rubble by the Arab Legion
during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
After the site came under Israeli control in 1967, a number
of plans were submitted for the design of a new building.
After years of deliberation and indecision, a commemorative
arch was erected instead at the site in 1977, itself
becoming a prominent landmark of the Jewish Quarter. The
plan to rebuild the synagogue in its 19th century style
received approval by the Israeli Government in 2000 and the
newly rebuilt synagogue was dedicated on March 15, 2010.
The company involved with its reconstruction believes that
restoring the synagogue to its former glory will once again
allow it to serve as a centre for World Jewry.
The Hurva Synagogue today stands off a plaza in the centre
of Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter. Excavations carried out at
the site in July and August 2003 revealed evidence from four
main settlement periods: First Temple (800–600 BCE), Second
Temple (100 CE), Byzantine and Ottoman. Three bedrock-
hewn mikvahs (ritual baths) were uncovered there dating from
the 1st century. The earliest tradition regarding the
site is of a synagogue existing there at the time of the 2nd
century sage Judah haNasi. By the 13th century, the area
had become a courtyard, known as Der Ashkenaz (the
Ashkenazic Compound), for the Ashkenazic community of
Jerusalem. In 1488, Obadiah ben Abraham described a
large courtyard containing many houses for exclusive use of
the Ashkenazim, adjacent to a "synagogue built on pillars,"
referring to the Ramban Synagogue. The Ramban Synagogue
had been used jointly by both Ashkenazim and Sephardim until
1586, when the Ottoman authorities confiscated the building.
Thereafter, the Ashkenazim established a synagogue within
their own, adjacent courtyard....
The Ramban Synagogue (Hebrew: בית כנסת הרמב"ן), is the oldest active synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem.
It was founded by Nahmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman, whose name is often abbreviated as Ramban) in 1267.
Today it is located at the corner of Ha-Yehudim Street and the square in the Jewish Quarter.
The foundation of the building comprises vaults resting on Romanesque and Byzantine capitals. Along with the
fact that there are no Gothic or Islamic architectural features, this suggests that the original building
predates the Crusader period.
The synagogue is located three meters below street level, to comply with Muslim restrictions for Dhimmi
houses of prayer not to be higher than mosques.
13th century -
After the Disputation of Barcelona, Nahmanides was exiled from Aragon, and in 1267 he made aliyah to the Land
of Israel. In a letter to his son, he described the Jewish community of Jerusalem devastated by the Crusades:
" Many are its forsaken places, and great is the desecration. The more sacred the place, the greater
the devastation it has suffered. Jerusalem is the most desolate place of all. ... There are ten men who meet
on the Sabbaths they hold services at their home. ... Even in its destruction, it is an exceedingly good
Seventy two years old, he undertook the effort to rebuild the Jewish community and chose a ruined house on
Mount Zion to reconstruct it as a synagogue. A number of Jews moved to Jerusalem after hearing of Nahmanides'
arrival. The Torah scrolls that were evacuated to Shechem before the Mongol invasion were returned. In three
weeks, for Rosh Hashanah, the synagogue was ready for use.
16th century -
In 1586, the synagogue was closed under the order of the Turkish governor of Jerusalem. Subsequently, the
Sephardi community established their center in the adjacent place, where the academy belonging to the tanna
Yochanan ben Zakai was said to have stood during the Second Temple period. Today the Yochanan ben Zakai
Synagogue stands there.
19th century -
In 1835, the leaders of the community managed to obtain a permission from the Ottoman authorities for the
renovation of the synagogues, which were unified into a single unit.
20th century -
Over the years, the building has been the home to the Sephardi community, was converted into a mosque after
being confiscated by a Mufti, and was used as a flour mill and a cheese factory. Today it is used by the
After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the building was destroyed by the Arab Legion. As a result of the 1967 Six-
Day War, Jews regained their right to the property, and 700 years after the Ramban revived the ancient
building, the synagogue was reopened.