The Maghen Abraham Synagogue is one of the main synagogues in Lebanon.
Located in the Jewish district of Wadi Abou Jamil in Beirut, the synagogue was destroyed during the Lebanese Civil War. Restoration of the synagogue began in May 2009.
An older synagogue in Beirut was demolished in 502 by a great earthquake which destroyed several cities in Lebanon. Maghen Abraham was constructed in 1925 and named after the son of abraham Sassoon, Moise Abraham Sassoon of Calcutta, on land donated by Isaac Mann. It was designed by the architect Bindo Manham and construction was overseen by Ezra Benjamin and Joseph Balayla.” The synagogue was also used for Torah and scientific lectures, weddings and other festive events.
In the 1950s and 1960s there were sixteen synagogues in Beirut and they were all full, according to a Lebanese expatriate who moved from Beirut to Paris in 2003. Jews were entitled to the same rights as other minorities and the number of Jews was increasing even after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, by which time there were about 14,000 Jews in Lebanon.
Even during the PLO’s control of the area in the 1975-6 conflict guards were placed on the synagogue for its protection. In 1976, a year after the civil war began, Joseph Farhi transferred the Torah Scrolls from the synagogue to Geneva and entrusted to renowned Jewish-Lebanese banker Edmond Safra, who preserved them in his bank’s coffers.
In the process of rebuilding Beirut following the 2006 war, renovations of the ruined synagogue began in 2009. The project’s authorization were agreed by the Lebanese government, and other community leaders, in a move that shows Lebanon’s commitment to the Jewish community rights in Lebanon. Nowadays, restoration is complete but the Synagogue still not open to public or worshipers.
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Pictures courtesy of Delphine Darmency