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The Karaites Finally Renovate their Most Ancient Synagogue in Jerusalem– and Museum Adjacent to it.

April 9, 2017

Video is in Hebrew

 

 

This article, in english, is a word-for-word translation (not the best one, I’m afraid).

Check out the site of the Karaite Heritage Center in Israel (Hebrew) for more

 

On the History of the Anan ben David Synagogue see Brill 

I reproduce here the relevant section:

1. The Karaite Synagogue in Jerusalem

The Karaite synagogue is the oldest one in Jerusalem (Pinkerfeld 1971, p. 15 ). Traditionally, the Karaite community in Jerusalem is said to have been established by ʿAnan ben David, the putative founder of Karaism, in the ninth century. This tradition is unsupported. Based on its appearance and the way it was constructed, with crossed arches in the ceiling, the synagogue building appears to date from the eleventh or twelfth century, when the Karaite community in Jerusalem enjoyed its greatest growth and fame. At first the structure was probably at street level, but over the centuries apartments and rooms “piled up” around it as they were demolished and rebuilt. As a result, the synagogue building became lower than its surroundings. The earliest document attributing the building to the Karaites is from 1561. Until the 1948 war, the synagogue could be approached by a steep staircase that descended about 5 meters (16 feet) from the courtyard. Tradition has it that the Muslims banned the Karaites from cutting windows in the walls so that their voices would not be audible outside the building.

When access was restored in 1967, the synagogue was in a half-destroyed state. It was reconstructed based on a drawing by the architect Jacob Pinkerfeld. The sanctuary, which measures 8 × 10.5 meters (26 × 35 feet), is crossed by a row of two pillars, each measuring 1 meter × 1 meter (3.2 × 3.2 feet) according to Pinkerfeld’s reconstruction (see plan).

Two recesses on the eastern side were apparently used for storing Torah scrolls. The rear currently serves as the women’s section, although there is no proof whatsoever that there ever was a women’s section in the original building. The synagogue apparently had two pulpits, one between the two central pillars and the other near the ark. The sanctuary was surrounded by storerooms. The northeastern room served as a ritual bath and may have been connected underground to the ritual bath of the adjacent Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue.

In any case, this double-stoa room is the oldest such sanctuary known anywhere in the world. Until 250 years ago, it was a dark place, with just a little light provided by qandīls (oil lamps) hanging from the ceiling; then three lighting shafts were cut from the courtyards above into the synagogue. But even then the light that made its way in was dim. In front of the entrance to the sanctuary was a small vestibule for removing shoes and storing personal prayer articles; these practices were probably adopted under the influence of Muslim prayer customs.

 

See here for some interesting historical documents, of this historic site, from the British-Mandate era

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