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Blog 3 – The Temple

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The Temple

Everyone in Curacao knows the church-like building that graces the beginning of downtown Punda. Perhaps not everyone has the best memories – given that in the basement we have to pay our fines – but despite this, its beauty will be denied by few.

History

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After the Dutch Reformed Jewish Congregation Emanu-Él had turned from the Orthodox congregation Mikve in 1864, a new prayer house was built. The Government proposed a piece of land that was available at the east of the town hall. The land was located behind the old city wall and was named “Fo’I Porta”, meaning outside the city gate. In 1856, the first stone was laid and the prayer house was inaugurated on September 12 in 1867. It was named: The Temple, to distinguish from the other synagogue, the “Snoa”.

However, a century after the separation, there were no fundamental ideological differences anymore between the two Jewish communities. Also at the social level, the members of the individual congregations were intensively interacting with each other and many families were connected by marriage to each other. This led to a reunion in 1963 and The Temple lost its function as a synagogue.

Rezoning

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After fourteen years of vacancy, the building was used as a movie theater for a while, with a pub in the basement. In 1989 the Jewish community sold the building to the Island Territory. It was eventually transferred to the Heritage Foundation and this foundation then took care of the renovation and rebuilding of The Temple. This was realized under the condition that the Public Prosecution could reside in the building. On August 14 1999, this was realized and as of that moment the Public Prosecution office was located here.

Access

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On Monday morning I put my naughty (or instead very brave) shoes on and go to the Public Prosecution. I ring the doorbell and when my introduction through the intercom does not come across very clearly – it is certainly not common that there is a photographer / writer at the door. The door is unlocked and I am invited to tell my story inside. When I explain why I really would like to have a look inside and make a few pictures, it is discussed with a few colleagues. Although I don’t have an appointment, I am very kindly spoken to and within a few minutes I get permission – under supervision – to take some pictures in the entrance hall of the building.

Architecture

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At that moment I really dare to take a good look around me and I discover the beautiful architecture. Despite the modern approach, suitable for the current office function, the classic details are maintained. A stand-alone structure was chosen, at which the first floor rests, so the original walls were not affected. The room behind the glass door, where the Public Prosecutor has its office, are logically not publically accessible. But as well as from the hall downstairs and as from the stairs at the first floor, it is clear that the change in function did not harm the building. Its original form and details are clearly visible.

 

Acquaintance

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After taking the pictures I thank my supervisor and the receptionist for their help and hospitality. I am introduced by one of the guards, with whom I get to walk around outside inside the fence to photograph The Temple and I end up going home with special and unique footage. When I later that day get in contact with the spokesperson of the Public Prosecuton, who very kindly tells me a bit more about the history and other background information, this piece writes itself.

It was a special experience to just be able to look inside this landmark of Downtown-Curacao and I am grateful for this encounter. And even before I place my last dot, I am already daydreaming about my next encounter…

 

With thanks to Manon Hoefman

 

 

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