According to the Hebrew Bible, God’s presence rested in the first temple for 371 years with the Ark in the Holy of Holies until it was looted and destroyed in 586 BCE by the Babylonians. Two golden pillars representing burning flames flanked the entrance to the vestibule. A curtain separated the Holy room. At the end of the Holy room is a table for offerings, and behind that, another curtain separating the Holy of Holies. Around the holy rooms, between inner and outer walls, three storeys of small storage and administrative rooms, some with windows, are connected by ladders.
Antiocus III the Great invited Jewish people in Babylonia to settle in Sardis in the 3rd century BCE. The ruins of an impressive synagogue with mosaic floors and inscriptions in Hebrew and Greek were excavated in Sardis after 1958.
They say El Ghriba, “The Stranger,” the oldest synagogue in Tunisia, incorporates a stone or door from the first or second temple in Jerusalem after it was destroyed. The present synagogue was built at the site of a sixth-century synagogue, so it’s a matter of faith whether it preserves anything of the original temple in Jerusalem.
A synagogue is a house of assembly where people can pray, read the Hebrew Bible, and study. Since the destruction of the second temple, prayers replaced sacrifices, and a special building isn’t necessary as long as at least ten people can gather.