Have you heard about Nissan’s Shul?
For sure you know It by its more well know name the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue, the main synagogue of the Hassidic community in the Old City, or The synagogue of Nissan Beck, or as it’s called in Yiddish Nissan’s shul, named after the man that was most active in the project to establish the synagogue. Against the backdrop of the Jewish Quarter’s skyline, the synagogue stands proudly. Its location at the beginning of the eastern slope of Mount Zion towards Temple Mount adds to its splendor. The name “Tiferet Yisrael” is in memory of Rabbi Israel Friedman, who founded the dynasty of the Ruzhyn Hasidism. Rabbi Israel was the one who initiated the establishment of the synagogue and even gave the first donation to buy the lot on which it was built.
At the start of the 19th century we meet the first Hassidim that arrive in the Old City. They were a minority in the Ashkenazi community and indeed their status was greatly affected by this. Yisrael Beck was one of the followers of Rabbi Yisrael Friedman, he immigrated to Safed and after about ten years came to Jerusalem where he met a small Hasidic community that was swallowed up by the Pharisees community. Over the years the Hassidic community grew. His son Nissan Beck noticed an increase in the community. Together with Rabbi Israel Friedman, they understood the need to establish a proper Hasidic center and sought a plot on which the building could be built. After locating the land, they located the owner of the land and bought the land before foreign agents could lay their hands on the ground.
Rabbi Friedman’s intention was to establish a synagogue for the Hasidic community in Jerusalem, whose first members came from Safed to Jerusalem a few years earlier. It was built about eight years after the construction of the Hurva Synagogue of the Pharisees. Construction lasted about eight years. During the building, Franz Joseph I, the Austrian emperor, came to Israel and said, “Why is the dome of the synagogue missing?” Nissan answered him: “The synagogue removed its hat in honor of you, sir.” “How much will it cost me for the synagogue to return its dome?” Asked the emperor, who understood the hint, and contributed a considerable sum to the completion of the dome, the synagogue was inaugurated in 1872.
The synagogue was magnificent, the building was about 20 meters high. Its rounded dome was one of the highest places in the Old City and overlooked all its surroundings. It became the center for many Hasidim who lived between the walls. In its cellars there was a special hope in those days – a heated mikveh.
The Tiferet Israel Synagogue was the center of Hassidic life in the Old City. These years contributed greatly to the consolidation of the status of the Hasidic community in Jerusalem, at a time when a great influx began outside the walls.
During the War of Independence an important position and an observation post were erected on its roof. As a result, there were face-to-face battles with the Arab Legion, and in the end the synagogue was conquered by the Legion and destroyed by it. Its high dome and walls collapsed and covered its foundations.
After the unification of Jerusalem, the stones of the collapse and the filth were cleared, the entrance to the hall of the first floor was exposed. The facade facing the west was very magnificent and very reminiscent of the facade of the Baram Synagogue, a synagogue in the Galilee.
These days, the archaeological excavations are complete and reconstruction of the synagogue has begun. The synagogue will be built as an exact copy of the synagogue that was destroyed in 1948. The synagogue will operate in a special format that will include community life and tours of visiting groups.