Israel–Palestine Conflict: Non-Jewish visitors barred from Kolkata synagogues
The three popular Jewish synagogues in the city have closed entry to non-Jews against the backdrop of Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank
The three most popular Jewish synagogues in Kolkata have apparently barred entry to non-Jewish visitors, against the backdrop of Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Is the Jewish community fearful of violence or desecration from those critical of Israel's policies in Palestine? There has been no official notification on the matter from the synagogue authorities.
The gates of these synagogues have, however, remained closed round the clock for the last few days. They have been opened for a limited period to let members of the minuscule Jewish community within for prayers.
Any non-Jewish visitor these days is stopped at the entry gates by the security guards, who say that entry to non-Jews is prohibited "for the time being". The guards are also tight-lipped about the reasons behind this move. They also could not say for how long the restriction would prevail.
Even parking facilities in front of these three synagogues have been withdrawn for the last few days.
Regular non-Jewish visitors to these synagogues recall that earlier, these prayer houses were open to visitors of all religions for six days a week at a specific time in the day. However, even then, people were allowed in only after submitting copies of their identification and address proofs at the offices of the synagogues.
These three synagogues—namely Magen David, Beth El and Neveh Shalome—are popular among the people of the city because of their architectural excellence and beauty.
Of these three synagogues, Neveh Shalome was the first Jewish synagogue to be established, by Shalome Obaidah ha-Kohen way back in 1831. It is located on Indra Kumar Karnani Street, in the famous China Bazar area of central Kolkata.
Beth El was next to be established, in 1856. This synagogue, whose name means ‘House of God’, is extremely well-regarded for its aesthetics and craftsmanship, especially its stained glass windows and marble staircases, reflecting the rich legacy of European architecture. It is located on Pollock Street, in the city’s busiest trading hub—Burrabazar.
Magen David was established in 1884 by the iconic Elias David Ezra, who hailed from the Baghdadi Jewish community and after whom Kolkata’s famous trading hub Ezra Street was named. The Ten Commandments of Moses are written in Hebrew on the walls of the Magen David synagogue. It is located on Synagogue Street, also in Burrabazar in central Kolkata.