Roman-era Synagogue Desecrated With Rabbi Nachman Graffiti

Conservation experts had just finished repairing the 2,000-year-old building when it was defaced again.

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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The grafitti on Har Meron.Credit: Gil Eliyahu
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

A Roman-era, 2,000-year-old synagogue in the Mount Meron nature reserve has been desecrated, with its walls spray-painted with “Nachman of Uman” lettering. A group of hikers discovered the graffiti, and notified the Israel Antiquities Authority. When the authority’s inspectors arrived they discovered graffiti on other historic buildings in the area as well.

Uri Berger, the northern region’s chief archaeologist at the antiquities authority, said that over the last year the authority had invested a major effort in conserving and reconstructing the ancient synagogue in Meron, including erasing previous graffiti that was sprayed on the walls.

“This is the second time in recent years that ‘Nachman of Uman’ has been sprayed on the walls of this synagogue which dates back to Roman, Mishna and Talmudic eras,” said Berger. “Only a month and a half ago we finished conservation work at the site.” At a site further south called Hurvat Shama, where there is a tomb attributed to Mishna sage Shammai, who was Hillel’s adversary, further graffiti was discovered. “It’s sad that these sites were desecrated by people who call themselves believers.”

Nachman of Uman refers to the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement, Rebbe Nachman, who is buried in Uman, Ukraine. A group of his followers in Israel regularly paint a slogan with his name in public places.

Berger said that spraying paint “causes irreversible damage to the stones – erasing it causes further damage. The cleaning process demands resources and manpower that could be devoted to other sites, and are now wasted because of this unnecessary vandalism.”