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Taliban to allow restoration of historic synagogue

25th Nov 2022
Taliban to allow restoration of historic synagogue

(Photo credit: Flickr Commons)

Harun Nasrullah

The Taliban has approved conservation work on a historic synagogue in the city of Herat in western Afghanistan, reported The Art Newspaper on October 26.

Yu Aw synagogue, in Herat’s old city, which was built around the turn of the 20th century, will undergo a 16-month restoration project to save it from further degradation and collapse.

The restoration, costing $500,000, funded by the Aliph Foundation, a Swiss group aimed at protecting cultural heritage sites in conflict areas, began earlier this month.

The project will also include repairs to the community mikvah, or bathhouse, known as Hammam-e Mosaie, that was once used by Herat’s Jewish residents, who numbered in the tens of thousands. The buildings are in the Mahalla-yi Musahiya area of the city, known by locals as the “Neighbourhood of the Jews.”

It will be one of the first cultural conservation projects in the province since the Taliban overthrew the Western-supported government in 2021. The synagogue last underwent restoration efforts in 2009, with funding coming from another Swiss organisation.

“We want to prove that we are tolerant and accepting of one another, that we seek peace, and that we are not extremists, Despite the change in government, our historic sites remain protected, and they are not in any way connected to religious matters,” said Zalmay Safa of Herat’s department for safeguarding historic monuments.

Following the establishment of Israel, Herat’s Jewish population began emigrating to the Jewish State and the United States.

By the 1970s, the local Jewish community had completely left.To find technical solutions to the decaying building, the Afghan Cultural Heritage Consulting Organisation was approached six months ago for assistance.

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