By Susan D. Harris – November 2012
Please see “Update” and “Related Reading” at the end of this post.
See what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, sees miracles? . . . Or, look at the question this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences? Reverend Graham Hess, Signs, the movie, 2002.
For Christians around the world who believe they are watching Biblical prophecies fulfilled daily, in a multitude of ways and places, the events in Syria should be worthy of a wide-eyed glance and give them pause for a reason they may not be aware of.
While we continue to hear of the damage inflicted on Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, it is almost unfathomable what is happening to this treasure trove of antiquity that holds within it’s borders a slice of history important to all mankind. It is, of course, the suffering of it’s people that is the greatest tragedy, but when the lens is pulled back we see a bigger picture: A labyrinth of medieval structures recently set ablaze, and the last fragile structural remnants of earlier civilizations crumbling into ash heaps under the weight of prolonged violence.
Not only are the antiquities of Islam being destroyed, but a site of great interest to Jews and Christians alike sits in the eye of a hurricane swept in by the Arab Spring. For hundreds of years the Great Synagogue of Aleppo was the home to the Aleppo Codex – what many experts believe to be the most accurate, complete and beautifully written manuscript of the Hebrew Bible. Written around 930 CE, and with it’s early travels sketchy, experts estimate it was in Aleppo for nearly 600 years. The Codex is important because, among other reasons, it contained massive marginal notations concerning important portions of the text. According to Matti Friedman, author of “The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible,” it may not be as well known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, “But to many scholars it is even more important, because it is considered the definitive edition of the Bible for Jewry worldwide.” Safe in the venerated fortress whose foundation was laid, according to Jewish tradition, by King David’s general around 950 BCE, the Codex was kept in a metal chest in a grotto of the synagogue appropriately named the “Cave of Elijah.”
After the Mongol conquest of Aleppo in the 13th century, the synagogue was used as a mosque. By the early 15th century however, it was once again a synagogue; remodeled and improved until suffering it’s greatest destruction in 1947. In November of that year, in Lake Success, NY, the United Nations held their now infamous vote heard ‘round the world, deciding to partition Palestine between the Jews and Arabs. In the wave of anti-Jewish attacks that spread across the Mideast in response to that vote, the synagogue was attacked in an Arab pogrom. It was feared that the Aleppo Codex was lost forever to fire or thieves. Miraculously, it was not. After 11 years in hiding, it emerged in Jerusalem and was presented to Israeli President Izhak Ben-Zvi. While debate still rages around the whereabouts of over 40 % of the manuscript, the portion remaining intact is currently kept at the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, along with The Dead Sea Scrolls.
In the years following the Arab Pogrom, most of the Jewish population that remained in Aleppo eventually left that city due to continued persecution. The synagogue, parts of it still intact and refurbished, was reportedly completely abandoned around 1995.
It’s certainly no coincidence that Christianity, and it’s existential link with the Jewish people, is coming under attack at an alarmingly increasing rate. We are watching a whirlwind of supernatural powers swirling, not just in Aleppo, but across the Middle East. While the fate of the albeit abandoned Great Synagogue of Aleppo is still unknown in the current crisis, Christians and Jews necessarily agree: It was once a fortress protected by the hand of God.
Should this great building be set ablaze or come under siege once more, it may hold just as much prophetic meaning for the world as it did after it’s last great siege. Within five months of that ruination, the State of Israel was born.
UPDATE: GREAT SYNAGOGUE OF ALEPPO TOTALLY DESTROYED:
The 2,000-year-old Jobar Synagogue in the Syrian capital of Damascus — the country’s holiest Jewish site — was looted and burned to the ground:
SYRIA CRISIS: AL QAEDA SEIZED VILLAGE THAT STILL SPEAKS THE ANCIENT LANGUAGE OF CHRIST. ONE OF ONLY THREE PLACES IN THE WORLD WHERE THE ANCIENT DIALECT OF WESTERN ARAMAIC IS STILL SPOKEN:
Syria crisis: al-Qaeda seizes village that still speaks the ancient language of