Magen Avraham Synagogue in Beirut, Lebanon
Magen Avraham Synagogue in Beirut, Lebanon Photo by Petteri Sulonen/Flickr CC 2.0
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A representative of Beirut's Jewish community has denied media reports that the city's only synagogue is about to reopen, the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper reported.

The Magen Avraham synagogue, located in Wadi Abu Jamil in downtown Beirut, was badly damaged during Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war and has been undergoing extensive renovations for the past five years.

“The construction is basically done,” said Bassem al-Hout, a lawyer and mukhtar for the community, “but it doesn’t have any benches or furniture.”

He refused to speculate on when the synagogue would reopen, pointing out that there were no rabbis in Lebanon to lead religious services.

According to Hout, a Muslim who facilitates the legal side of Jewish marriages, deaths, divorces and births in Lebanon, there are around 400 Jews remaining in Lebanon, most of them living in and around Beirut.

Hout assumed the unique position of mukhtar to Lebanon’s Jewish population after his father, who held it since 1978. “The last Jewish mukhtar left in 1978,” Hout explained, “and my father assumed the position. ... He owned a building right next to the synagogue. Before the war, Jews were our neighbors.”

The Jewish community still has plans to move a trove of historical documents related to Judaism in Lebanon into the synagogue, Hout said.