Back in December last year, 2014, I brought you a story that Syria’s oldest synagogue, a mere 2,000 years old , the Eliyahu Hanabi Synagogue in Jobar, Damascus had been vandalised, ransacked, call it what you will. At the time initially it was reported as destroyed, it later came to light it wasn’t. 2000 year old Jobar synagogue plundered by Al-Qaeda rebels, blamed on “Zionist Commandos”
We are not alone as it is estimated that at least 33 churches and hundreds of mosques have been destroyed by the Assad regime since the start of the Syrian civil war. Six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Syria have been destroyed in Syria since the fighting began.
As early as March 2012, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova was publicly warning about damage to precious sites and called on both sides to protect Syria’s cultural legacy.
“Damage to the heritage of the country is damage to the soul of its people and its identity.”
Before the conflict, the synagogue held thousands of religious and cultural treasures, including hundreds-years-old Torah scrolls, historical texts, precious dining ware, and ancient Judaica of all sorts. Some of the items were reportedly looted in the early days of the war. Some were reportedly placed in safekeeping. Many remained in the building until its destruction.
The Jobar Synagogue in Damascus lay in ruins Monday after being shelled by Syrian government forces. All photos provided exclusively to The Daily Beast by witnesses on the ground.
Opposition sources told The Daily Beast that the damage assessment following this week’s devastating attack on the Jobar synagogue was ongoing but all of the Jewish heritage items that remained inside the synagogue are feared lost.
The Eliyahu Hanabi Synagogue, built to honor the prophet Elijah, had existed at least since medieval times. The site has been a destination for Jewish pilgrimage for centuries. It was said to have been built atop the cave where Elijah hid from his persecutors. The Prophet Elisha, who allegedly built the synagogue, was said to have anointed King Hazael on its steps, now gone.
The town of Jobar was home to a significant Jewish population throughout the medieval period, although the community was eventually driven out of Syria and the synagogue was taken over in the 19th century by local Arab leaders. Following the establishment of the State of Israel, the synagogue was used as a school for displaced Palestinians.
Franjieh and Jobar Synagogues, Damascus, Syria.