|M.Sc Student||Fleisher Ron|
|Subject||Oriental Orthodox Architecture in Israel, an Option of|
Otherness in Israeli Architecture
|Department||Department of Architecture and Town Planning||Supervisor||Professor Iris Aravot|
|Full Thesis text - in Hebrew|
Upon entering the ‘Gates of Mercy’ (‘Sha’ar Harahamim’) Synagogue in Beersheba, founded by Rabbi Ben-Tov, a leading rabbi of the Israeli Moroccan community, one encounters a staircase lined with reproductions of paintings of Chasidim (ultra-orthodox Jews) depicting life in a ‘Shtietl’ (a Jewish village in Eastern Europe) . The designers of the synagogue chose to exhibit a series of figures who personify strict adherence to faith, values which stem from pre-19th century Europe. Visitors to the synagogue are expected to strongly identify with these framed images.
What is the message being conveyed to those who enter the synagogue?
What is the connection between Sepharadi Jews (of North African/Middle Eastern origin) and the series of images from the ethos of religious, Ashkenazi Jews (of Eastern European descent)?
The field of Israeli culture is predicated from its beginnings upon the mythological concept “western” as an organizing principle. One of the most effective strategies of resistance to western hegemony is the revival of oriental Jewish religious traditions and adherence to these traditions as signifying a real ethnic division, the growth of the oriental orthodoxy.
The change which took place in traditional Jewish society in the course of its struggle against modernization in the 19th century found its most notable expression in the development of the Lithuanian Yeshiva. About one hundred years later similar process began in the Jewish communities of Morocco. The conservative reaction, marked by eastern European features, against modernization which developed in Morocco, began during the appearance of the first signs of modernity and intensified in 1912, the year of the French conquest.
In 1947 Otzar HaTorah, a society with headquarters in New York, began to operate in Morocco. Thousands of children and young people of school age were sent from Moroco to fill the yeshivot of Europe. These students, some of whom serve today as important rabbis were shaped in a fashion differing and cut off from the tradition of their fathers and their ancestral homes
Therefore, the choice of the images greeting those who ascend the staircase leading to the main sanctuary of the ‘Gates of Mercy’ synagogue is not arbitrary. The entire physical expanse is a visual expression of the relatively subordinate position of the orthodox Sepharadi community to the elite of Orthodox Israeli society.