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Thursday, August 4, 2011


Acre is most famous for is Crusader fortress, Byzantine remains and Ottoman history.

So it’s quite a surprise to round a corner into Kaplan Street and come across one of the most ornately decorated shuls I’ve ever seen.


The Ohr Torah synagogue was set up 60 years ago by the Tunisian community in Acre and they have been building and decorating it ever since …. bit by bit ……. shekel by shekel.



This massive work of love was taken on by Zion Badash, now in his 80s, a holocaust survivor from Tunisia (  it’s not so well known that people were rounded up in Tunisia and transported to the concentration camps in Europe).

After the establishment of the State in 1948, this building was given to the Tunisian community to set up their own shul  which Zion , then in his 20s. immediately took upon himself.

They started building with the small amount of money they had intending to continue as money was collected. They decorated the ground floor with some mosaics and  decided they wanted to cover the entire building with mosaics – which they have done.


Zion, can usually be found in his shul,  happily recounting its history to all visitors. He is a staunch lover of Israel and claims he doesn’t possess a passport as he doesn’t ever want to leave the country.


DSC00402  As you enter the ground floor, you come to  the Beis HaMedrash  where the community prays during the week, and beneath your feet, on the floor are  mosaics of  of animals, fish and flowers.


As you slowly raise your eyes you’ll see the mosaics of episodes from the Bible as well as coins from over the centuries.



The ceiling shows the design of the Temple. All the colors are  natural mosaic colors – none have been painted.



Thee are  140 stained glass windows depicting important events in our history- this one shows Acre,in the tribe of Asher and the writing shows how Acre was supposedly given its name by G’d during the flood when he said the flood waters will go “up to here” ( ad ko)DSC00396


The mosaic  ceiling inside the prayer hall shows scenes from ancient Jerusalem.



As you walk up the stairs you can’t help but realize that the entire stairwell is also covered in mosaics – these depicting  difficult times in our history.



Upstairs is the main shul where nothing has been spared in its decoration.

The domed ceilingDSC00418


The 7 holy Arks  where the Torah scroll are kept.DSC00425


The three middle ones already have doors of inlaid silver, intricately decorated. In the coming years the members hope to raise enough funds to  put silver doors on all of the  sections.DSC00426

The ornate round  Sefardi Torah scrolls stand in the Ark.DSC00420


Even the women’s section is appropriately decorated with mosaic pictures depicting the role of our matriarchs. Below Rebecca meets Isaac for the first time.DSC00429


Ancient history is not the only time depicted in the decorations. Symbols of the State of Israel adorn the path on the way out of the synagogue.



Rosalind Adam said...

What an amazing synagogue and how wonderful that the congregation are able to fund the further adornment of it. On the other hand, how sad that our own synagogue is struggling for enough funds to keep going.

Anonymous said...

I was fortunate enough to visit this synagogue in 2013 and meet Rabbi Zion. If you in Akko, don't miss it.