One of the most magnificent synagogues in the Old City, the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue, is to be restored by the Jerusalem Municipality. After the successful restoration of the Hurva Synagogue, the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem Ltd. (JQDC) has undertaken to rebuild the synagogue, which was destroyed by Arabs during the 1948 War of Independence. Tiferet Yisrael, with magnificent arches currently bricked in, is located in the center of the Jewish Quarter, in the same plaza as the Hurva Synagogue. The construction plan was approved this week by the Jerusalem Municipality’s Local Planning and Building Committee.
After decades of planning and setbacks, the synagogue, built as a place of prayer for Hassidic Jews in the Old City, was completed in 1872. It was originally built by Rabbi Nissan Beck, a wealthy patron of the Ruzhiner Rebbe, Rabbi Yisroel of Ruzhin.
The land for the synagogue was first purchased by Ruzhiner Hassidim in 1843, beating out by a matter of days a representative of Czar Nikolai I for plot, upon which he planned to build a church and monastery. Money-raising for the project took years, and Muslim officials several times interfered with and postponed construction.
The building was finally finished after German ruler Franz Josef, en route to the inauguration of the Suez Canal, made a visit to Jerusalem. On a tour of the Old City, Josef noticed the Synagogue with an unfinished roof. When he inquired as to why the roof was not in place, Rabbi Beck replied that “the synagogue has taken off its hat in honor of Your Majesty!” Much delighted with the reply – and cognizant of the fact that money was really at issue – Josef donated the sum needed for construction of the roof and a dome, which was called “Franz Joseph's cap" by Old City residents. The dome, too, will be restored in the reconstruction project.
The synagogue has three levels and includes 275 square meters of constructed space. The building is 23 meters (about 75 feet) high, and its roof provides a commanding view of the Old City and the Temple Mount. Speaking after the approval of the plan, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said that “the Municipality considers the restoration and preservation of traditional sites in Jerusalem a very important project. The Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue was one of the greatest symbols of the Old Jewish Yishuv in Jerusalem. We are proud to be able to restore and rebuild it.”