New York City
March 28, 2008
David Horovitz, Editor-in-Chief
P.O.B. 81, Jerusalem
RE: Erroneous history of the Hurva synagogue and the
Jewish community of old Jerusalem
Dear Mr. Horovitz:
I was very happy to hear that the Hurva was being rebuilt!
But the way the article in the Jerusalem Post was
written, did a disservice to the topic.
Please consider this letter a complaint against the Jerusalem
Posts article Hurva Synagogue restoration
nears completion, published March 28, 2008. This article
contains revisionism. It contains blatant marginalization
of the Sephardic citizens of old Jerusalem, while aggrandizing
Ashkenazi Jewish history of the same location. Specific
statements mentioned in the article with clarifications
[The Hurva Synagogue] was
a focal point of Jewish spiritual and cultural life in Jerusalem.
It may have
been a focal point, but only for the Lithuanian Ashkenazi
Jews, and only for a limited number of years. The Sephardic
community, the first developed community in Jerusalem, (and
when we talk about Jerusalem we are certainly only talking
about Jerusalem as it existed within the Old City walls),
remained distinct and possessed its own focal point and
spiritual center. The center of the Sephardi Jews was the
Kal Grande, the synagogue which is today referred
to as the Yohanan Ben Zakkai in the area of
the Four Sephardi Synagogues. 
The Hurva once served as Jerusalem's main synagogue,
and became the largest, grandest and most important synagogue
in the Land of Israel.
This is not correct. It may have served as Jerusalems
main synagogue, but it did only for a division of Ashkenazi
Jews. It was absolutely never a universal center for all
of Jerusalems Jews. The much larger Sephardic community
had nothing to do with the Hurva, except for high level
communal and social events. On these occasions, the Hahambashi,
the Chief Rabbi of Palestine, (who was always Sephardic)
would be in attendance.
Following its construction in 1864, the Hurva was
the tallest building in the congested Jewish Quarter, its
dome and that of the quarter's other main synagogue - Tifereth
the Hurva was tall, it did not measure as the tallest. Kal
Grande (the Yohanan Ben Zakkai synagogue),
may be the tallest. Yet, because it was built below ground
(you have to walk down to enter), it has been marginalized.
It was built below ground, because it is much older than
the Hurva, and at the time it was built, the Jews of Jerusalem
were predominately Sephardic and they adhered to oppressive
Islamic law which mandated that no synagogue was built taller
than a mosque. If you measure base to peak, you will find
For the next 84 years, the structure became a center
of Jewish spiritual and cultural activity, first under Ottoman
and then under British rule.
Yes, it did become a center, but onlyfor the Lithuanian
5) Until the 1930s, most of the important events of
the pre-state Jewish community in Israel took place in the
This is pure
revisionism. The pre-State Jewish community was led by the
majority, and they were the Sephardic Jews, members of the
va'ad haedah hasefaradit bi'yrusalayim, the Sephardic
Community Council of Jerusalem.  From the
mid 18th- early 20th century, ceremonial
events took place in the Kal Grande, (the Yohanan
Ben Zakkai synagogue), the largest active synagogue
of the largest communal group.
The goal was to make the Hurva synagogue
not simply a place of worship but a center for world Jewry
as it once was.
The Hurva was
never a center for world Jewry. Calling the Hurva
a center for world Jewry is a falsehood. It
existed as the largest non-Hassidic Ashkenazi synagogue,
one that was used late in its life, much after the Ashkenazim
started to build their population in Jerusalem.
After reading this Jerusalem Post
story, one may get the sense that there was no Jews in Jerusalem
before the Lithuanian Ashkenazim arrived. It is strange,
but in some ways, the article lends support to the belief
that the Jews came late to Jerusalem and took it from the
Arabs. In a world where we are facing Islamic revisionists
claiming that Jews took over Palestineand that there
were no Jews in the land prior to the development of the
modern State, we must ensure that the narrative is clear
that Jews indeed lived in the land, even if some only want
to examine Jewish history focusing on selective groups and
their falsely magnified histories.
Author of the book: A Window Into Old Jerusalem.
And the paper: Sephardic Contributions To The Development
of The State Of Israel.*
*(Part of the Zionist Timelines and the Israel
at 60 program of the Jewish Agency for Israel.)