A Synagogue in South Tel Aviv

Shattered windows, a collapsing roof and thousands of books left on the floor. Those were the images I had in my head when I fell asleep last night. I was thinking about a synagogue on Menashe Ben Yisrael and HaCongress in Neve Sha’anan, South Tel Aviv. Since moving to the Shapira neighborhood a few weeks ago, also in South Tel Aviv, I have been riding my bike past the building. It’s in complete shambles, but that doesn’t keep it from being any less magnificent. The structure and stained glass windows show the how beautiful this place of worship once was and still is, even as it slowly falls apart.
Abadonded Synagogue and Beit Midrash (place of study) in Neve Shenan, Tel Aviv
Abandoned Synagogue and Beit Midrash (place of study) in Neve Sha’anan, Tel Aviv


Stained glass window with Star of David and Menorah
Stained glass window with Star of David and Menorah


Plant growing from inside the building
Plant growing from inside the building
I woke up this morning with the building still engraved in my memory and decided to go take a closer look. A local resident from Shapira (pictured) said that he prayed at this exact synagogue for decades, but that they closed it two years ago. It looks as though it was abandoned overnight. The building is filled with books, tables and chairs. On the ground surrounding the synagogue, you can find pieces of prayer books and of worn out prayer shawls. I assumed the glass had been broken for a while, but he said the place had been further damaged by people and the glass broken only two weeks ago. His words were “drug addicts destroyed the place”. There may have indeed been an incident a few weeks ago that left the place in worse condition, but a lot of the damage was definitely done over a longer period of time from sheer lack of upkeep.
Entrance to Syangogue
Entrance to the building
Pages from a prayer or study book outside the building
Pages from a prayer or study book outside the building
A local resident who prayed here for years. He now prays down the street.
A local resident who prayed here for years. He now prays down the street.
An old Prayer Shawl (Talit) in a trashbag outside of the builidng
An old Prayer Shawl (Talit) in a trashbag outside of the builidng
When I went around, I heard a cough. I looked over and saw a man sleeping inside the building. I walked away and lowered my lens, so as to respect his privacy. When I reached the other side of the building, I could see that the man was gone. In a few of the pictures, you can see the small separate area towards the end with blankets and leftovers of food and possessions. As with many religions, Synagogues historically would double as a place of refuge for travelers and others in need. While I am worried for the safety of anyone spending time there (the roof was very unstable), it’s nice to know that this synagogue is still upholding one function.
Inside the building. Most of it is filled with books and chairs.
Inside the building. Most of it is filled with books and chairs.
The stained glass windows from the inside
The stained glass windows from the inside. Still beautiful
The ceiling is slowly caving in multiple places.
The ceiling is slowly caving in multiple places.
Remnants from a person staying inside the building.
Remnants from a person staying inside the building.

From the synagogue, you could hear buses coming down the ramps from the Central Bus Station and see people walk down the street as they start their day. It’s a street most tourists and Israelis never walk down, but it lies in the heart of South Tel Aviv, Synagogue and all.

South Tel Aviv Residents
South Tel Aviv Residents
Menashe Ben Yisrael, the street the synagogue is on.
Menashe Ben Yisrael, the street the synagogue is on.
A bus turning onto HaCongress Street after leaving the Central Bus Station.
A bus turning onto HaCongress Street after leaving the Central Bus Station.

Hey, tell me what you think!