The "Sephardic synagogues" is the name of a compound which includes 4 synagogues which belong to the Spaniard sector in the ancient city in Jerusalem. The synagogues are located in the corner of the jewish quarter.
Building the Sephardic synagogues was the initiative of Spanish exiles that came to Jerusalem in the early 16th century, after they were forced out of spain in 1492. Briefly after their arrival, in the year 1517 israel was occupied by the ottomans who were very liberal towards all the Sephardic jews.
In the 16th century they started building the compound.
Although today we speak about one joint compound, originally each synagogue was separately built including a separate entrance to each synagogue. The first synagogue to rise was the Rabbi Yohanan Ben-Zakai synagogue. In adjacent to the synagogue a Talmud center for kids in the name of Eliyahu Hanavi was created, in the years to follow it to would be turned into a synagogue.
In 1764 the community joined a massive group of immigrants from Istanbul in Turkey, together they established ,in adjacent to their rising compound, the Istanbul synagogue. The "small yard", which was formed between the existing structures was to be in the future to come the center synagogue. The ancient synagogues were destroyed during the Jordan occupation and were rebuilt gradually.
Yochanan ben Zakai Synagogue
This synagogue was named after Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai which founded the Sanhedrin in Yavne after the fall of the second temple. The synagogue's structure is designed like an extended rectangle and its ceiling is extremely high. The synagogues hall is very unique due to it having two holy arks. As for today and probably since forever only one holy ark is used for its purpose.
The synagogue has been of great use for the Sephardic community, the sitting formation is in a half a square mode around the cantors bimah . the Bimah is a special bimah due to having a little roof made out of metal developments. The synagogue has great importance to the Spanish sector and its supervisor is none other then the head Sephardic Rabbi of the state of Israel.
The Istanbul synagogue
This synagogue was built in the Istanbul style and it includes squared marble windows which are very colorful and surround the structures dome and bring plenty of light to the temple.
The synagogue's structure is unique in two different ways:
A bi lateral structure: the bimah (stage) is centerd in adjacent to the western wall where the holy ark is placed, the prayer benches are located from both sides of the ark, this is in contrast to the popular structure where the bimah is in the middle of the synagogue. The bilateral structure is known mainly in synagogues all over Italy.
The main entrance is in the eastern wall next to the holy ark.
Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue
This synagogue was first used as a place for learning the Torah and it was called " Kahal Talmud Torah" and was used as a synagogue only on holidays. The synagogues name is was given to it , by the tradition, after one " Yom Kippur" they were missing one person to feel a Minyan (count) and suddenly this magical man appeared from nowhere and completed the count. When this holiest of holidays ended the mysterious man disappeared, the prayers understood him to be none other than Eliyahu Hanavi.
The center synagogue
The yard between the three synagogues was used at first for either a ladies section or a tent for prayers but with the growth of the Sephardic community it was turned into a synagogue becoming the center synagogue. It is also referred as " Kahal Zion synagogue".