The L.A. Times has an interesting item today about Beirut’s oldest remaining synagogue which is undergoing a quiet renovation. The Maghen-Abraham synagogue was damaged, ironically enough, by Israeli artillery fire which was attempting to root out Palestinian militants. More information is available at the Web site of the Lebanese Jewish Community Council, but only if you can withstand the insane animation on their site.
Once home to more than 20,000 Jews, Lebanon today has only a few hundred, though Judaism remains an official religion and the synagogue renovation was endorsed by the country’s many factions, including Hezbollah.
The project has provided Hezbollah an opportunity to assert that it is anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic. Similarly, the PLO protected the area during Lebanon’s long civil war under the same stated purpose. While attempting to root out the PLO, Israeli artillery hit the synagogue’s roof, contributing to the damage already done by the civil war, some historians claim.
Despite the endorsement of Lebanon’s religious communities, the renovation project remains secretive. Since breaking ground at the site, the story has received little or no attention in Lebanese newspapers. The architect told the Global Post that he was advised to raise scaffolding only inside the building .
At the site, a worker leads a visitor through the synagogue grounds to a group of men clearing shrubs. “No pictures, no journalists," he orders. "A woman came last week and took pictures, and the police came and arrested her.”