Ruined Synagogue to Get New Arch

Developers are set to place the keystone in the dome of Jerusalem's Hurva synagogue today, 60 years after the last synagogue at the site was blown up by Jordanian troops.

The keystone will be placed in the crown of a 12-stone arch, and a celebration will mark the event. Each stone bears the name of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

"The Hurva Synagogue is reassuming its central status among world Jewry," said Nissim Arazi, director general of the Company for the Reconstruction & Development of the Jewish Quarter.

At least two other synagogues have stood at the site of the Hurva, whose name means "ruin" in Hebrew.

This is supposedly where the first synagogue was built after the destruction of the Second Temple. In 1700, Rabbi Judah Hehasid built a synagogue on the ruins of that first synagogue. Hehasid died a few days after he borrowed money from Arab lenders for the project. Twenty years later, the debt still had not been paid back, so the lenders burned down the synagogue and expelled the rabbi's Ashkenazi Jewish congregants from the city.

The site remained desolate for more than a century, until 1864, when an impressive new synagogue was built with donations from the British-Jewish Montefiore family. The new synagogue, with its iconic domed top, became one of Jerusalem's landmarks and saw many prominent visitors including Zionist movement founder Theodor Herzl, and the leader of the right-wing Revisionist branch of Zionism, Ze'ev Jabotinsky.

During Israel's 1948 War of Independence, the Jewish Quarter was captured by Jordanian troops, who blew up the synagogue and expelled the Old City's Jewish residents. After Israel gained control of the area after the 1967 Six-Day War, the site was intentionally left in ruins as a symbol of the Quarter's destruction.

In 2001, however, the government decided to reconstruct the synagogue, based on Israel Antiquities Authority research. During construction, remnants from the First and Second Temple periods were discovered beneath its foundations.

Construction is expected to be completed by 2009.