For seasoned visitors and residents alike the Hurva was for many years one of the icons of the Old City of Jerusalem. A solitary arch reached into the sky near the main square in the Jewish Quarter.
The Hurva synagogue itself was built in the early 18th century but was destroyed in 1721 by people claiming to be creditors for unpaid debts. It lay in ruins for around 140 years and so as a result of its destruction at this time it was nicknamed the Hurva (“ruin”). The Hurva was rebuilt in the mid-19th century, it became a center of local Jewish life and, as the largest building in the neighborhood many public assemblies were held there. It continued to function until its destruction by Jordanian soldiers in 1948 during Israel’s War of Independence.
After the Six Day War the single arch was restored, but not the synagogue and the arch became a symbol of the dark years of the divided city.
Complete restoration was completed and the synagogue rededicated in 2010.
Unfortunately, there are complex and lengthy politics behind the scenes the impact of which is that the Hurva is essentially designated as private use. It is, therefore, difficult to manage to get inside; although it is generally possible at prayer times. It is possible to to book guided tours (in advance only) – Telephone for reserving guided tours: 02-626-5922.
It is worth planning ahead and booking a tour of the Hurva. The synagogue itself is very impressive, but without diminishing from its importance or holiness there are several other attractions.
In the basement there is a Byzantine Street and a (closed) archway that leads directly to the Cardo. There is also a sign recording the discovery of a War of Independence secret arms cache.
Going up in the Hurva there is a good view of the synagogue interior from the first level (ladies section), but the view from the third level – the Whispering Gallery is much better – and you can whisper from one side of the dome to the other.
There are elevators to the womens’ section level. There is a balcony outside at this level with a spectacular view towards Mount Zion, the Jewish, Armenian and Christian Quarters of the Old City. Short but steep spiral staircases take you to the third level. You can walk around the outside of the dome and have a tremendous 360 view. The four quarters of the Old City are at your feet. You can see towards the desert, to Mount Scopus and Mount of Olives and to Zion Gate and just catch a glimpse of David’s Tower.
The presence of the Hurva is felt over the entire Jewish Quarter; and if you are passing by at prayer times it is worth trying to get in. Otherwise enjoy the pictures above…