Love of the Land

For the week ending 6 June 2009 / 13 Sivan 5769

Tale of Two Synagogues

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

When a Jewish visitor to Tzefat asks for directions to the Ari Synagogue he will inevitably be asked by one of the locals whether he means the Sephardic one or the Ashkenazi one.

Located next to the old cemetery, the Sephardic one originally went by the name of the Prophet Eliyahu. The plaza next to it, once called the "Coal Plaza" because it was where coal vendors sold their goods for heating, is today called "Defender Square".

An interesting legend is attached to the Ashkenazi Ari Synagogue located in the old city of Tzefat. A small crack in the wooden bimah opposite the entrance is testimony to an incident that occurred during the War of Independence. A shell that fell in the synagogue courtyard sent shrapnel into the synagogue where Jews were praying. Just as one of them bowed during the silent service a burning fragment passed over his head and struck the bimah.

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