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IDF Soldiers Pray in Ancient Gaza Synagogue for First Time in Decades

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Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers have allegedly prayed at an ancient Gaza synagogue, the first time in close to two decades that a Jew was allowed to pray at this holy site.

Michael Freund, who established the Shavei Israel organization tweeted on X: “For the first time in decades, Israeli soldiers prayed in the ancient synagogue in Gaza which was built in the 6th century and where a beautiful mosaic floor depicting King David was unearthed years ago. Jews have returned to Gaza!!”

A number of tweets suggest that soldiers prayed at the ancient synagogue, yet no photos were shared on social media, due to the fact that there are very strict instructions on documentation during combat.

The ancient synagogue of Gaza, dating back to 508 CE during the Byzantine period, was unearthed in 1965. Situated in what was once the bustling port city of Gaza, known as “Maiumas” at the time, this historical site now resides within the Rimal district of Gaza City.

The Egyptian archaeologists initially identified it as a church, but a remarkable mosaic featuring King David playing a lyre, labeled in Hebrew, was subsequently found.

This mosaic, measuring 3 meters in height and 1.9 meters in width, provided insight into the art and culture of the era. Curiously, it was first mistaken as depicting a female saint playing the harp but was later associated with Orpheus, a figure from Greek mythology, with ties to Jesus or David in Byzantine art.

Sadly, the main figure’s face was damaged shortly after its discovery. Following Israel’s capture of the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six-Day War, the mosaic was moved to the Israel Museum for restoration, where it remains a testament to the rich history of the region.

One of the most renowned panels in the mosaic floor portrays King David, identified by a Hebrew inscription reading “David”, as he plays the lyre with a gathering of docile wild animals before him.

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