Renovation Work Underway at Beirut's Main Synagogue

Magen Avraham synagogue was badly damaged during 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War.

Renovation work is underway at the main synagogue in central Beirut, after approval from the Lebanese government, planning authorities and even Hezbollah.

The work, which is being funded by private donors and a Lebanese construction firm, began two weeks ago, according to various media reports.

Built in the 1920s, the synagogue is located in the neighborhood of Wadi Abu Jamil, close to Lebanese parliament and other government buildings in downtown Beirut.

The synagogue was seriously damaged during the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war, when looters took its Torah ark and prayer benches, and even gutted its electrical system.

Renovations include mending the gaping hole in the Magen Avraham synagogue's roof and repairing the chandeliers that once hung from it. The Torah ark and prayer benches will also be refurbished to their former states.

The reconstruction work is being funded mainly by a $200,000 donation from private donors and a $150,000 from Solidere - a construction firm privately owned by the family of assassinated prime minister Rafik Hariri - which has been rebuilding central Beirut after the destruction caused by the civil war.

The president of the Lebanese Jewish Community Council was quoted by AFP on Tuesday as saying his community was ecstatic about the renovations.

"We hope this initiative will ensure that the community grows once again," Isaac Arazi said.

Judaism is one of the country's 17 officially recognized faiths, and the local Jewish population numbered more than 20,000 before the civil war.

Today, the several dozen Jews remaining in Lebanon hold few religious activities other than prayer services during the High Holidays. Many Jewish residents are in middle age or older, and affluent.