The “Tree of Life” synagogue, Etz Ahayim, is located on the main street of Ortaköy, not far from the water. Because this was a common name for synagogues during Byzantine and Ottoman times, no one knows for sure when it was built.
The permission for the synagogue’s restoration can be found in a decree issued in the 17th century, which was preserved. The synagogue was severely damaged in a fire in 1703 and had to be rebuilt. Another fire completely gutted the synagogue in 1914, this time during Yom Kippur services. The Torah Ark and two marble columns with Corinthian capitals survived and are now on display in the synagogue’s outdoor courtyard.
Etz Ahayim Synagogue’s Architecture
The religious academy that once stood next to the site of today’s synagogue was demolished, and the current synagogue was constructed (Midrash). A monumental entrance gate with a gabled arch supported by two columns was built by master Eliyahu ben Yitzak Kamhi in 1915. In the 1970s, patron Viktoria Aruz built a new marble Torah shrine as a memorial to her deceased ancestors. Near the front door, an exhibit displays the priceless artifacts that once resided in the Torah shrine. Both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities currently use the Etz Ahayim Synagogue, which is split into two sections. After the terrorist attacks on the Neve Shalom synagogue in 2003, all of Istanbul’s synagogues had to be rebuilt for security reasons. Prayer services were held in people’s homes while the building was being renovated. Photos of these devout families will be displayed in the synagogue’s lobby.
The Ortaköy Synagogue is significant in Jewish history because it was here that Rabbi Naftali Ben Isaac Katz, one of the most prominent European Cabbalists of the 18th century, stopped on his way from Russia to Jerusalem and established the Ortaköy Religious School (Midrash). His illness ultimately proved fatal. His grave in the Jewish cemetery in Ortaköy attracts pilgrims from all over the world.
Since it was registered on November 27, 1960, the Monument Protection Act has made sure that the Etz Ahayim Synagogue, which serves both Ashkenazi and Sephardic people, is safe.
Q: What is the Etz Ahayim Synagogue?
A: The Etz Ahayim Synagogue is a historic synagogue located in Istanbul, Turkey.
Q: Where is the Etz Ahayim Synagogue located?
A: The Etz Ahayim Synagogue is located in the neighborhood of Balat, Istanbul, Turkey.
Q: What is the history of the Etz Ahayim Synagogue?
A: The Etz Ahayim Synagogue was built in the late 19th century, and it has served as a center of Jewish life in Istanbul for over a century.
Q: What is the significance of the Etz Ahayim Synagogue?
A: The Etz Ahayim Synagogue is a symbol of the long history of Jewish life in Istanbul, and it is one of the few remaining synagogues in the city that dates back to the Ottoman era.
Q: What are the opening hours of the Etz Ahayim Synagogue?
A: The Etz Ahayim Synagogue is open to visitors on Sundays and Wednesdays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Q: How much does it cost to visit the Etz Ahayim Synagogue?
A: There is no admission fee to visit the Etz Ahayim Synagogue.
Q: What is the dress code for the Etz Ahayim Synagogue?
A: Visitors to the Etz Ahayim Synagogue are expected to dress modestly and cover their shoulders and knees.
Q: Is there a guide available at the Etz Ahayim Synagogue?
A: Yes, there is a volunteer guide available to provide information about the Etz Ahayim Synagogue.
Q: What is the transportation like to the Etz Ahayim Synagogue?
A: The Etz Ahayim Synagogue is easily accessible by taxi or public transportation.
Q: Are there any restrictions on taking photos at the Etz Ahayim Synagogue?
A: Yes, taking photos inside the Etz Ahayim Synagogue is restricted, but visitors are allowed to take photos in the courtyard and other areas outside of the building.
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Map of Etz Ahayim Synagogue