Jerusalem's Sistine Chapel of the Jews

By By Matti Friedman
New restoration of the murals at the Ades Synagogue, Jerusalem. (Matti Friedman)
ISRAEL---In 1901, in Ottoman Jerusalem, members of the wealthy Ades family funded the construction of a synagogue for Jews who had moved to the city from Aleppo, Syria. The woodwork inside the Ades (pronounced “Addis”) Synagogue was intricate Damascene carpentry inlaid with mother-of-pearl, a reminder of the community’s Syrian origins. To decorate the walls they would invite an artist not from Syria but from Galicia, and affiliated not with any of the city’s religious communities but with the Zionist bohemians and avant-gardists who had just established an art school nearby. The young painter, Yaakov Stark, covered the interior with a combination of traditional motifs, like the symbols of the 12 tribes of Israel, and with the new icons of the Zionist movement, stars of David and menorahs, woven together like a mosaic in shades of blue and green. [link]