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Protecting Jewish heritage in times of war

The Jewish heritage inventory work undertaken by the Foundation for Jewish Heritage in partnership with the Center for Jewish Art (CJA) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) has been transferred to trusted military partners representing European and western powers, and which includes the UK Ministry of Defence.


The Foundation had commissioned (a) CJA to prepare an inventory of the historic synagogues of Europe and (b) ASOR to prepare an inventory of the Jewish heritage sites of Iraq and Syria. More than 2,000 nationally and internationally important Jewish heritage sites in Europe, Iraq and Syria are now listed to be protected in the event of armed conflict.


In order for armed forces to be able to fulfil their responsibility to protect cultural property, they must be able to identify it. This list provides descriptions and coordinates of particularly important Jewish heritage sites which has been shared with trusted military partners known to operate in good faith and to uphold the principles of international law, in order to support them in preserving this heritage.


Cultural property of great importance, and places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples, are protected during war under:

  • the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, signed by more than 130 countries, and its two Protocols (1954 and 1999)

  • the 1977 Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions

  • customary law, such as the 1907 Hague Regulations.

In addition, intentional damage to cultural property and buildings dedicated to religion can be a war crime, prosecutable at the International Criminal Court.


Dame Helen Hyde, Chair of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, commented, “we are delighted that these important Jewish heritage sites will receive this protection in the event of war. It is another example of how our unprecedented Jewish heritage research work has demonstrated its value.”


Michael Mail, Chief Executive of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, remarked, “preserving cultural heritage in conflict zones is now recognised internationally as a major concern and significant Jewish heritage sites should also receive the benefit of being identified and safeguarded in this way.”


Dr Vladimir Levin, Director of the Center for Jewish Art stated, “I of course hope very much that these inventories will not be needed. We saw enormous damage to cultural heritage in the last decades and now at least some of the combatants will have detailed information on Jewish heritage sites to be protected.”

The Foundation for Jewish Heritage is a UK Registered Charity No 1162111

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