An article in Blomberg News says that Beirut’s synagogue, Magen Avraham, will reopen in 2011 after being closed for 35 years. The synagogue, inaugurated in 1926, is beautiful indeed. I have read in very reliable sources that it is still the biggest synagogue in the entire Middle East.
The problem is: there are no Jews left in Lebanon. Statistics vary between 80 and 200 remaining people whose average age is 65. Clearly, there are more funerals than Bar Mitzvahs in the extinct Jewish community within Lebanon.
The last Rabbi left the country shortly after the outbreak of the civil war. The community will now seek to appoint a new Sephardic Rabbi familiar with the Middle Eastern rituals of the region (shouldn’t he be Mizrahi rather than Sephardic?).
I wonder how many people will attend the Shabbat office on Friday and Saturday. And who will be the hazzan?
The synagogue is a symbol, and we like symbols. Doesn’t the Preamble of our Constitution enjoin us to respect the Pact of Coexistence by all means?
It is high time the synagogue was restored and reopened. But this event is also a political move through which the Lebanese government and people wants to cock a snook at Israel and show that they know how to make a difference between Zionism and Judaism. In return, the Lebanese state requires from the local Jewish community to show antipathy towards Israel.
Lofty initiative, but at the end of the day… pathetic. First, judeophobia exists in Lebanon. During the 2005 parliamentary elections, a mayor of Ain el-Mreysseh, having learned that one Lebanese Jew had voted (always the same one, and a symbolic vote too), urged to kidnap him in order to exchange him for Lebanese detainees in Israel. I read that in the newspaper then. In November 2008, SSNP supporters attacked Future News TV reporter Omar Harqous (Sunni, I presume) with sticks in Beirut’s Hamra Street, calling him a “Jew”.
Second, most Lebanese Jews today are pro-Israeli. It’s a fact. Actually, there are three categories of Lebanese Jews: (1) those who are anti-Israeli/anti-Zionist. These form a minority, and some of them live in Lebanon. (2) Those who are not involved in politics, whose only country is Lebanon and to whom Israel is a foreign thing. Most of them are those who remained in Lebanon, but some of them live abroad too. (3) Those who support Israeli policy at various degrees. From what I have observed, it seems to me that most Lebanese Jews born and raised abroad pertain to the last category.
This said, all Lebanese sects have “feelings” for other countries: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the US etc. Which makes things more complicated.
I would be really glad to attend the reopening ceremony of Magen Avraham. I know my Hebrew prayers enough to be a good Jew. Plus, I have a few kipot in my closed and I am circumcised. But I remain a pork-eating goy. So, will they will still have me?
If not, let us import some Jews along with the future Rabbi and show the world how we coexist. As if Muslim-Christian coexistence were not tiresome enough.