Object Alone

Obj. ID: 3536
Sacred and Ritual Objects
  Ha-gdolah Synagogue in Djerba - Torah ark

© Center for Jewish Art, Photographer: Radovan, Zev, 1997

Seven Torah arks run along the eastern wall of the prayer hall, each of which is set within a rectangular niche with a horseshoe arch. The central ark is emphasised by three stairs and Shiviti plaques (see: main photograph).

The arches are supported by two rectangular pilasters mounted by graduated square capitals and surrounded by a rectangular frame. The pilasters and the lintels are painted blue, light blue and white, while the arches are adorned with an ablaq -like pattern in the same colours. 

The seven original wooden arks of the 18th century were substituted several times by new compartments (see: History/Provenance). Six out of the seven arks were replaced in the first quarter of the twentieth century, whereas the ark placed on the southern corner (extreme right), is the only remnant of an earlier ark made in 1836.

Each of the seven arks is divided into three registers and topped by an open-work tympanum. An elongated double-winged door comprising rectangular wooden panels arranged in registers are flanked by two similar boards. The panels are decorated with an open-work net-like pattern, balustrades and opaque rectangles with geometrical motifs. The lace-like tympana are formed of horizontal registers. All but the ark on the extreme right are surmounted by a central six- or eight-pointed star enclosing a vegetal motif, whereas the top register encloses a central hamsa flanked by fish and foliate scrolls. The earlier ark is adorned with a central vase with scrolls and tulips surmounted by a dedication on its top register.

The inscription is written in square Hebrew letters, and reads:

"נעשה ונגמר תיקון מלאכת/ ההיכלות ע"י (על ידי) החהשהב"ק (החכם השלם הבקי) כתר/ פריזא בן דוד יצ"ו (ישמרהו צורו וגואלו) בתכלית ההידור/ וע"י (ועל ידי) בנו כה"ר (כבוד הרב) נסים יצ"ו ש' (שנת) תקצו לפ"ק (לפרט קטן)."

"The renovation of the Torah arks was 'done and accomplished' by the wise, faithful (whole), and knowledgeable, the great Torah scholar (Keter; see: Remarks: no. 1) Fariza Ben-David, may his Rock and Redeemer protect him. (It was also done) in perfection of beauty by his son the honourable Rabbi Nissim, may his Rock and Redeemer protect him, the year (5)596 (1836)."

Small double doors are set in the centre of sealed lower units, which probably served as a genizah. Two additional doors are affixed to the central ark. An elongated door is placed in the third niche from the left, leading to a storage room.


Over the years, silver dedicatory plaques were donated, usually for the repose of the souls of the dead. They are inscribed in Hebrew square letters of various styles. Some inscriptions reveal the local pronunciation, as well as common names and possibly place of origin (see: Remarks: no. 2). The plaques were attached symmetrically to the central ark's doors. The following are the inscriptions, starting with the right door, from top to bottom.

Three silver plates are placed on the top right panel; the rectangular gabled plaque reads:

"קדש/ לה'/ למנוחת/ איש תם וישר (איוב א:א)/ זקן מאצאר/ בר יעקותה/ ת.נ.צ.ב.ה (תהא נשמתו צרורה בצרור החיים)."

"Dedicated to the Lord for the repose of the perfect and upright man (Job. 1:1), Zaken Mazar (see: Remarks: no. 2) son of Ya'akutah, may his soul be bound in the bond of life."

The rectangular plaque to the left reads:

"למנוחת חנינה/ בת עזיזה לבית/ מאצאר תמ"ך (תהא מנוחתה כבוד)."

"For the repose of Hanina daughter of Aziza from the house of Mazar, may her rest be honoured."

The following inscription is engraved on a round plaque attached to the same panel:

"כסף צרוף (תהלים יב:ז)/ זה הקדיש מאת מזל/ טוב לבית אליהו ברבי/ מב"ת (מנשים באהל תבורך; שופטים ה:כד) למנוחת אביה ואמה ובתה ובעלה ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.א/ ויתן ה' משאלות לבה לטובה (ברכות טז ע"ב; מבוסס על ברכת החודש)/ היא ובניה ובנותיה וכל/ קרוביה אמן."

"This pure silver ('silver tried in furnace', Ps. 12:6) was dedicated by Mazal Tov of the house of Eliyahu Berabi 'blessed shall she be above women in the tent' (Judg. 5:24). (Dedicated) for the repose of her father and mother, daughter and husband, may their souls be bound in the bond of life, amen. 'May the Lord fulfill her wishes for the best (T.B. Berakhot 16b; based on the Benediction over New Moon) her and (the wishes of) her sons and daughters and all her relatives, amen."

Two dedications are attached to the second panel; the rectangular gabled plaque reads:

"5750  1990/ למנוחת/ העלובה רחל/ בת שבירצה/ לבית קדושים/ נ"ע (נוחה עדן) ב' ניסן/ שנת התש"ן/ נדבת רוב/ מתתיהו."

"(The year) 5750, 1990. (Dedicated) for the repose of the humble Rachel daughter of Shabiraza of the Kedoshim (The Holies) family, may she rest inEden. The second of Nissan (28.3.90), the donation of Rob Matityahu."

The cypress-shaped plaque:

"קודש/ לה'/ הצלה/ לכבירה (לבית הכנסת הגדולה)/ זיעא (זכותה יגן עלינו אמן)/ כסף צרוף (תהלים יב:ז)/ נוי להיכל/ קודש הקדיש אותו הר' (הרב) ששי/ בן רחמים בן בחלה/ בעד בנו יחידו כלפאן/ הי"ו (האל ישמרהו ויזכהו) לתורה/ ולתפילין ולחופה ולמצוות ולמעשים/ טובים (מבוסס על הברכה לברית מילה)/ א.כ.י.ר.א (אמן כן יהי רצון, אמן)."

"Dedicated to the Lord, (for( the occasion of rescuing the Great (Synagogue; Kbira), may its virtue protect us, Amen. (This) pure silver ('silver tried in furnace', Ps. 12:6) is an ornamentation for the holy Torah ark, dedicated by Rabbi Sassi son of Rahamim son of Bahlah, for his only son Khalfon. may the Lord sustain him and grant him favour, to grow up to Torah tefilin, huppah and commandments, and good deeds (a paraphrase of the benediction recited during circumcision), amen, may it be his will, amen." 

The horizontal oval-shaped plaque is attached to the upper frame of the lower panel. It reads:

"6-2-82/ נדבת/ אפרים חדאד ואשתו/ לחיי בתו נתלי הי"ו (האל יחייה ויזכהה)/ S-K /   6-11-88"

"6.2.82 – A donation of Ephraim Hadad and his wife, for the life of his daughter Natali, may the Lord sustain her and grant her favour. S-K  6.11.88."

The cypress-shaped plaque is the last dedication on the right door:

"למנו' (למנוחת)/ מקיקץ/ עטון/ נ"ע (נוחו עדן)."

"For the repose of Mekikez Atun, may he rest in Eden."

The following inscriptions attached to the left door are read from top to bottom, starting with the top rectangular plaque:

"למנוחת משה/ בן סאסייה לבית/ מאצאר תמ"ך (תהא מנוחתו כבוד)."

"For the repose of Moshe son of Sassia of the Mazar house, may his rest be honoured."

The undulating oval plaque enclosing a medallion, which frames the dedication, reads:

"זה כסף/ הקדיש אותו/ חתאתו בן פרזון/ כהן הי"ו (האל יחיהו ויזכהו)."

"This silver (plaque) was donated by Hatatu son of Farjun Cohen, may the Lord sustain him and grant him favour."

Two additional dedications were made by the members of Mazar family; the inscription engraved on the cypress-shaped plaque reads:

"למנוחת/ כויכה/ אשת יוסף/ מאצאר בת/ רחמים סגרון"

"(The plaque was dedicated) for the repose of Kuikha, wife of Joseph Mazar daughter of Rahamim Saĝrun."

The rectangular plaque on the left reads:

"למנוחת עזיזה/ בת אמימה לבית/ מאצאר תמ"ך (תהא מנוחתה כבוד)"

"(Dedicated) for the repose of Aziza, daughter of Amimah of the Mazar family, may her rest be honoured."

The horizontal oval-shaped plaque is attached to the upper frame of the lower panel. It reads:

"21.7.84 / נדבת אפריים ואשתו/ לחיי בנו חדד/ S-K 27-10-87  Paris"

"21.7.84. A donation (made by) Ephraim and his wife for the life of his son Hadad, Paris S-K 27.10.87."

The inscription engraved on the cypress-shaped plaque:

"למ' (למנוחת) רחמים עטון נ"ע (נוחו עדן) ת.נ.צ.ב.ה (תהא נשמתו צרורה בצרור החיים)."

"For the repose of Rahamim Atun, may he rest in Eden, May his soul be bound in the bond of life."

In between the two doors a cypress-shaped plaque is attached, and reads:

"קודש/ לה' כניסת/ הגידולה מיהח' (מהחשובה) / מיסונה/ זבהלי"

"Dedicated to the Lord, to the Great (HaGidolah) Synagogue (Knisat) by the important Misuna Zabhali."

To the right of the central unit's doors, on an elongated, rectangular plaque:

"ז"ה (זו הנדבה)/ הקדיש אותה מרדכי עזרייה/ לחיי בנו ובנתיו למנוחת אביו/ הרב דוד עזריה ת.נ.צ.ב.ה."

"This is the donation of Mordechai Azaria for the life of his son and daughters and for the repose of his father Rabbi David Azaria, may his soul be bound in the bond of life."

The cypress-shaped plaque:

"קדש/ לה'/ למנוחת/ האשה/ הכשרה/ והצנועה/ מרת/ כמונה/ לבית/ כהן/ ת.נ.צ.ב.ה"

"Dedicated to the Lord, for the repose of the woman, the conscientious and modest Mrs. Kamuna, of the Cohen family, may her soul be bound in the bond of life."

The rectangular plaque attached to the top left of the central frame reads:

"למנוחת כציר בר צגיירה/ לבית ביתאן/ ת.נ.צ.ב.ה"

"For the repose of Katzir son of Zĝira of the Bitan family, may his soul be bound in the bond of life."

The following cypress-shaped plaque:

"הקדיש/ ל/ רבי יעקב/ חורי זצ"ל (זכר צדיק לברכה)."

"Dedicated (for the repose of) Rabbi Jacob Huri, the righteous of blessed memory."


The inner space is rectangular with an ogee arch opening. A straw mat on which the Torah cases are placed is at the bottom. An inner Torah curtain is hung inside one of the arks (see: Remarks: no. 3).

A bench is built along the wall beneath the Torah ark as part of the sitting arrangement. 


Summary and Remarks

87 image(s)

sub-set tree:

Torah ark in Ha-gdolah Synagogue in Djerba | Unknown
Object Detail
Heikhal HaKodesh (Holy Ark)
Monument Setting
1836 (inscription); 20th century
Active dates
Reconstruction dates
Artist/ Maker
Historical Origin
Community type
North African | Tunisian
| Tunisia, Djerba, Hara Kbira
Period Detail
Husseinite Dynasty under Ottoman (1705-1881) and
Unknown | Ha-Gdolah Synagogue (the Great Synagogue)
Documentation / Research project
Iconographical Subject
M | Magen David
H | Hamsa
| Fish
Textual Content
Unknown |
Languages of inscription
Shape / Form
Material / Technique
Material Stucture
sawed, hammered
Material Decoration
ceramic tiles, painting
Material Bonding
hinges, nails, glue
Material Inscription
engraving on silver, paint on wood
Material Additions
Material Cloth
Material Lining
Tesserae Arrangement
Construction material
3.40 m
Panel Measurements
Documented by CJA
Surveyed by CJA
Present Usage
Present Usage Details
Condition of Building Fabric
Architectural Significance type
Historical significance: Event/Period
Historical significance: Collective Memory/Folklore
Historical significance: Person
Architectural Significance: Style
Architectural Significance: Artistic Decoration
Urban significance
Significance Rating
Number of Lines
Hebrew Numeration
Blank Leaves
Façade (main)
Location of Torah Ark
Location of Apse
Location of Niche
Location of Reader's Desk
Location of Platform
Temp: Architecture Axis
Arrangement of Seats
Location of Women's Section
Direction Prayer
Direction Toward Jerusalem
Coin Series
Coin Ruler
Coin Year
Scribal Notes
Trade Mark
Decoration Program
Suggested Reconsdivuction
Main Surveys & Excavations
Sharon Weiser, Efrat Assaf-Shapira | 07.97
Author of description
Ariella Amar | 05.11
Architectural Drawings
Boris Lekar | 07.97
Computer Reconstruction
Section Head
Ariella Amar | 05.11
Language Editor
Dvora Sax | 10.11
Negative/Photo. No.
The following information on this monument will be completed:
Unknown |