9th-century synagogue in Aleppo sustains minor damage in Syria fighting

The Central Synagogue of Aleppo in January 2016. (Courtesy of Moti Kahana)

The Central Synagogue of Aleppo, January 2016. (Courtesy of Moti Kahana)

(JTA) — An ancient synagogue in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, sustained minor damage in fighting, according to photos provided by locals to an Israeli-American peace activist in the war-torn country.

The damage to a corner of the building was probably caused by shelling, according to Moti Kahana, the founder of the Amaliah not-for-profit group, which aims to relieve the suffering of refugees from Syria and empower women there. Debris covered the corner area, making it difficult to ascertain the extent of the damage to the synagogue, which is believed to have been built in the ninth century.

“It took a hit, but it’s still standing,” said Kahana, a businessman who says he has spent more than $2 million on rescue efforts in Syria. He said his contacts on the ground sent him pictures of the building from a sniper’s post overlooking it.

“The synagogue lies between the sniper post of moderate rebels and forces fighting for [Syrian President Bashar] Assad,” Kahana said.

Assad lost control over much of the country after the civil war began in 2011. Since then, at least one synagogue was almost completely destroyed in 2014, in Jobar, a city near Damascus.

Once Syria’s commercial and industrial hub, Aleppo has been divided since 2012, with the government controlling the western half and rebel factions holding the east. This month, forces loyal to Assad backed by Russian airstrikes severed a key rebel supply route into the city, and are thought to be preparing to recapture all of it.

“This is the last chance to save this synagogue and I’m appealing to anyone who can — Americans, Russians, Syrians — to help save it from the fighting ahead,” Kahana said.

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