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A New Synagogue in the Old City

Architecture matters.

Oct 7, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 04 • By DAVID GELERNTER
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The platform is ready, the mike is on, the tape is rolling; it is time to step up and speak. Also required: an eminent international panel to judge the competition. Invite the king of Jordan and the president of Egypt to join it. (Fat chance--but why not ask, and put the propaganda champions on the defensive for once?) Send an international exhibit of the design submissions around the world.

Yes of course: Most of the world will be too bigoted to look and listen. But that's no excuse not to show and tell. Telling the world things it doesn't want to hear is one of Israel's oldest, noblest traditions. The project falls under Natan Sharansky's authority; he is minister of housing and construction, and as good a man as any to point out that bombs can only rip up a nation's body, not its spirit.

In the long run, the Knesset (whose current building looks like a parking garage in Mineola) is no doubt fated to move to the Jewish Quarter too, to look out across the plaza that fronts the Western Wall. That move poses deep problems, and won't happen for a long time; but since we're holding an architectural competition anyway, why not ask for designs and have a look? Architecture is one of a nation's most important ways of speaking. Too often Israel sounds (is forced to sound) angry and defiant. But the right kind of architectural speaking can make it sound like what it is, the proud patron and loving, dutiful guardian of one of the world's greatest treasures.

David Gelernter is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.