Unearthing the Vilna Gaon’s Synagogue

July 19 2016

Like most large Jewish communities of pre-World War II Eastern Europe, that of Vilna (now Vilnius, Lithuania) consisted of a large main synagogue in a courtyard surrounded by smaller synagogues. A group of archaeologists, using cutting-edge technology, have now excavated part of the complex:

An underground floor of a building belonging to the complex that housed the 18th-century synagogue was exposed for the first time since 1957 earlier this month. . . .

“We don’t know yet what exactly was uncovered because analysis will be done on it in the following months,” Markas Zingeris, the director of the Vilna Gaon State Museum, said.

The Jewish complex is internationally significant because it used to be the center of one of Eastern Europe’s largest and most prominent Jewish communities. It was the home of the 18th-century rabbinic luminary Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, also known as the Vilna Gaon.

The complex and synagogue were razed in the 1950s after sustaining damage during World War II, and buried under earth atop of which a school was built. . . .

“[T]he Vilna Gaon actually didn’t pray in the Great Synagogue, but rather in one of the smaller synagogues around the main one,” Zingeris said.

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Read more at Jewish Telegraphic Agency

More about: Archaeology, East European Jewry, History & Ideas, Lithuania, Vilna, Vilna Gaon

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror