Syrian Arab Army forces flattened the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus over the weekend. The Daily Beast, which brought exclusive photos of the destroyed synagogue, said that the attack “not only wrecked a site that’s at least 400 years old. It may have destroyed thousands of irreplaceable Jewish artifacts contained inside the synagogue, according to opposition leaders and photos obtained at the site.”
The area where the synagogue once stood has been under bombardment by the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for months. The Syrian regime is laying siege to the town, one of the few rebel strongholds in the area as part of what the opposition calls Assad’s “scorched earth” policy.
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the destruction of Jobar Synagogue, which was a treasure of Jewish and Syrian cultural heritage,” said Shlomo Bolts, an official at the Syrian American Council, an American charity connected to the Syrian opposition.
Bolts, a Jew of Syrian ancestry, said that the Syrian Jewish community is only the latest victim of Assad’s strategy to target religious and cultural institutions.
“Yet this is hardly the only place of worship to be destroyed by the Assad regime. The Umm al-Zinar Church [a house of worship in Homs that locals say dates back to the first centuries of Christianity], the [1,400 year-old] Khalid Ibn Walid Mosque, and countless other irreplaceable cultural sites are now lost to history due to a dictator’s manic desire to keep power at all costs,” he said.
An Israeli news report from April 2013 noted that the synagogue had been “looted and destroyed,” although later photos proved that the synagogue had taken only moderate damage from a mortar shell.
Last December, photos emerged in another Israeli news report showing that many of the synagogues most precious artifacts were intact. The report stated that the bulk of the synagogue’s artifact collection was being held safely in the hands of local leaders.
Before the conflict, the synagogue held thousands of religious and cultural treasures, including hundreds years old Torah scrolls, historical texts, precious dining ware, and ancient Judaica of all sorts. Some of the items were reportedly looted in the early days of the war. Some were reportedly placed in safekeeping. Many remained in the building until its destruction, said the Daily Beast.