Preserving Syria’s Jobar Synagogue through Photographs

Damaged by mortar fire in 2013, and subsequently looted, the ancient synagogue in the Damascus suburb of Jobar may not have much of a future. Photographs exist, however, from 2009 and 2010 and—thanks to the Diarna project—these photographs are being preserved online along with pictures of many other synagogues, destroyed or in danger, throughout the Middle East. Rose Kaplan writes (slideshow included):

According to [local tradition], the synagogue is said to mark the location where Elijah anointed his disciple Elisha, although historical data suggest that multiple structures have existed there since antiquity. The Romanian Jewish traveler and historian Israël Joseph Benjamin visited the site in the mid-19th century and wrote that the original structure had been destroyed by the Roman emperor Titus; [he also noted the existence of] a second synagogue, supposedly rebuilt in the 1st century by Rabbi Eleazar ben Arakh and destroyed in the 16th century. . . .

Damascus Jews continued praying at the synagogue through the 1950s, making the long trek to Jobar for Shabbat prayers or for the Jewish holidays, or as a sort of pilgrimage. Many Jews had left Syria after the Holocaust, and again after the establishment of the state of Israel, and regular usage of the synagogue dwindled. However, it remained under the control of the Syrian Jewish community—Jews from Damascus installed caretakers in the synagogue to maintain the space, look after its Torah scrolls, show it to visitors, etc.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Jewish World, Mizrahi Jewry, Synagogues, Syria, Syrian civil war, Syrian Jewry

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism