Turkey in £6m shul initiative

By Marcus Dysch, November 24, 2011

The reconstruction of seven historic synagogues in a Turkish city will act as a tool to teach Muslims about Jewish history, according to directors of the project.

The synagogues of Izmir date back to the 17th century, but lie largely in ruins after years of neglect.

The city, in western Turkey, is now home to only 1,200 Jews, but was once one of the world's most vibrant Jewish communities.

Chanan Zeiderman, a director of the project, said the synagogues would be turned into a tourist site and provide an architectural legacy of the city's once flourishing community.

Only 13 of the original 34 shuls are still standing. Many are in poor condition, threatening thousands of documents, textiles and Judaica charting the history of Jews in the region.

Authorities in the city are supporting the project, as is Turkey's culture ministry. It is hoped work will be completed by 2016 at a cost likely to top $10 million (£6.4m). Six of the shuls are adjoining and will be used for guided tours. There will also be a museum and access to a collection of around 1,700 previously unseen books.

Mr Zeiderman said "everything has gone smoothly", despite the political problems between Turkey and Israel.

Last updated: 12:57pm, November 24 2011