This AP story evokes echoes of the so-called Fortress Synagogues in Eastern Europe, which served as defenses for the local Jewish communities and also the towns in which they stood. Striking examples of such synagogues, mainly in ruins, can be seen now in Poland (Szydlow, Zamosc) and Ukraine (Brody, Sokal, Sataniv, Shargorod, etc).
Abandoned synagogue gives shelter in Ossetian war
By YURAS KARMANAU
TSKHINVALI, Georgia (AP) — When Georgian rockets began falling on this sleepy capital of the breakaway province of South Ossetia, Zemfira Tibilova and her neighbors ran to a century-old brick synagogue.
During four days of fighting in the town, she said, four dozen Orthodox Christians hid in the building's dark basement with little food and water.
"These holy walls protected us," said Tibilova, 60. "God is still present here."
When the Georgian army launched an offensive late on Aug. 7 seeking to regain control of the region, about 50 people on Tskhinvali's Shaumian Street — mostly women and children and several elderly men — grabbed all the bread and water they could carry and took refuge in the synagogue.
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(Ruined fortress synagogue in Sokal, Ukraine, 2006. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber)