Karaites and Sefaradim
The entrance to the Karaite synagogue
There’s a story that while Rabbi Refael Meyuchas was the Chief Rabbi of Israel, he was asked whether or not it was permitted for the children of Karaites to study with the rest of children of the community. “I was asked a practical question in regards to one of the Karaites that desires to enroll one of his sons in the Talmud Torah school, where he would be taught the Written Torah with the rest of the children”
In his answer, the Rabbi allowed the child to be taught, especially in light of the fact that the Karaites were already circumcised by a Jewish Mohel. The Rabbi finished his answer with these words: “And in my humble opinion it seems that they can be taught with the rest of the children of the community and even more so, the Holy Children of Israel should be jealous.” Despite his answer, the Rabbi changed his mind about the proper relationship towards Karaites because of a certain incident. At that times the Karaites were under the patronage of the Sefardic community. At a certain point, the heads of the Jewish community came together in secret to discuss how to collect money to pay back debts that community had incurred.
The Rabbi reached the meeting at the designated time and went down the stairs that led to the underground synagogue. He reached a certain step, and suddenly fainted. His students wondered if maybe it was caused by some kind of evil spirit that dwelt in the place. When the Rabbi revived, he demanded that the stair be uprooted in order to see what lay underneath. To every one’s surprise, they discovered holy writings of Maimonadies. It was known that Maimonadies fought against the influence of the Karaites when he was the chief rabbi in Egypt, and therefore they sought to denigrate him. As a result, Rabbi Meyuchas cursed the Karaites that the would never have enough people for a minyan, for a prayer quorum, in Jerusalem. In 1833, 20 Karaite families prepared to come to Jerusalem, but were stopped a plague which prevented them from reaching their destination. During the War of Independance, the few Karaites living in the Jewish Quarter joined the Jewish resistance. After the Quarter fell, the Karaite synagogue was plundered and an ancient Torah scroll from the year 1322 was stolen and sold to foreign buyers. A few years later Yitzchak Ben Tzvi succeeded in recovering it. Today above the underground Karaite synagogue lived a Karaite family, who act as caretakers.