Ramban Synagogue

The Ramban Synagogue (Hebrew: ‎ בית כנסת הרמב"ן), is the oldest active synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was founded by Nahmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman, whose name is often abbreviated as Ramban) in 1267. Today it is located at the corner of Ha-Yehudim Street and the square in the Jewish Quarter.


The foundation of the building comprises vaults resting on Romanesque and Byzantine capitals. Along with the fact that there are no Gothic or Islamic architectural features, this suggests that the original building predates the Crusader period.

The synagogue is located three meters below street level, to comply with Muslim restrictions for Dhimmi houses of prayer not to be higher than mosques.

13th century

After the Disputation of Barcelona, Nahmanides was exiled from Aragon, and in 1267 he made aliyah to the Land of Israel. In a letter to his son, he described the Jewish community of Jerusalem devastated by the Crusades:

Seventy two years old, he undertook the effort to rebuild the Jewish community and chose a ruined house on Mount Zion to reconstruct it as a synagogue. A number of Jews moved to Jerusalem after hearing of Nahmanides' arrival. The Torah scrolls that were evacuated to Shechem before the Mongol invasion were returned. In three weeks, for Rosh Hashanah, the synagogue was ready for use.

16th century

In 1586, the synagogue was closed under the order of the Turkish governor of Jerusalem. Subsequently, the Sephardi community established their center in the adjacent place, where the academy belonging to the tanna Yochanan ben Zakai was said to have stood during the Second Temple period. Today the Yochanan ben Zakai Synagogue stands there.

19th century

In 1835, the leaders of the community managed to obtain a permission from the Ottoman authorities for the renovation of the synagogues, which were unified into a single unit.

20th century

Over the years, the building has been the home to the Sephardi community, was converted into a mosque after being confiscated by a Mufti, and was used as a flour mill and a cheese factory. Today it is used by the Ashkenazi community.

After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the building was destroyed by the Arab Legion. As a result of the 1967 Six-Day War, Jews regained their right to the property, and 700 years after the Ramban revived the ancient building, the synagogue was reopened.