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Biblical Archaeology Review 49:1, Spring 2023

Back to Aleppo

The Great Aleppo Synagogue was one of the most important synagogues in the world and home to the oldest complete Hebrew Bible in existence. The synagogue burned down in 1947, but a virtual reality (VR) experience is bringing this lost wonder back to life.

Titled Back to Aleppo, the newest VR exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem brings visitors into the heart of this ancient synagogue as it appeared in November 1947. It is crafted around a collection of photographs commissioned only days before the 1947 fire by Sarah Shammah, a Syrian Jewish woman from Aleppo. Exhibit creators used these unique images, which capture every corner of the building, to create a 3D virtual reconstruction of the synagogue. Wearing headsets, visitors can choose to either take a guided tour of the whole building or explore it alongside Shammah as they listen to her harrowing story.

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