Meron: Ancient synagogue vandalized

Vandals spray-paint red warnings on wall of 2,000-year-old synagogue near tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

ancient Meron synagogue
ancient Meron synagogue
Nadia Ezer, Israel Antiquities Authority

Vandals spray-painted graffiti on the ancient synagogue in the Mount Meron nature reserve, near the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

The walls of the synagogue were defaced with warnings written in red: "This holy place will not be destroyed, you have been warned," "There will be no archaeological park here," "Mount Meron is not abandoned," and "Be warned."

Uri Berger, an archaeologist in the Upper Galilee region of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who identified the damage recently, filed a complaint with the police in connection with the destruction of the site, and an investigation was opened in the Antiquities Authority's anti-theft unit.

"There is no apparent reason or idea behind the spray of the inscriptions. This is a destructive criminal actby people who come to the ancient synagogue and destroy it in an instant. This is not the first time that this site, which was preserved by the Israel Antiquities Authority only a few years ago, has been vandalized. There are a handful of eccentrics who, ostensibly in the name of faith, damage the Jewish heritage that belongs to all of us. The damage to synagogues by non-Jews in the Diaspora is painful enough, but when it is done by our own people here in the land of Israel it is inconceivable," Berger said.

The synagogue in Meron is one of the largest ancient synagogues in the Upper Galilee. It is about 2,000 years old and has been a focal point for pilgrimage for hundreds of years. In Galilean Jewish traditions the synagogue is associated with the coming of the Messiah.

In 2014, the IAA Conservation Manager invested considerable efforts in the preservation and restoration of the ancient synagogue in Meron, funded by the Prime Minister's Office's "Milestones" project. During the course of the work, the structure, its walls and the adjacent tower were strengthened. The old graffiti was removed from the walls and mezuzot added the building, and wild vegetation that weakened its integrity and blocked passages was removed.