Originally the Church of Saint Michael, the synagogue is named after the 12th-century rabbi of Jerusalem who obtained permission to build a temple of worship on this location. According to the local Jewish community, now numbering about 50 families, this was the site of the temple built by the prophet Jeremiah. Some claim that Jeremiah is actually buried here beneath a miracle rock. Another legend associated with the area is that this was the location of a spring where the pharaoh's daughter found the baby Moses.
Little differentiates the synagogue's outside appearance from a church, save, of course, signs like the Star of David on the gate. Inside, a fine 12th-century bimah (pulpit in a synagogue), made of wood and mother-of-pearl, remains.
During the last restoration in the 1890s, it was discovered that medieval Jews used the site as a genizah (storage) for any documents on which the name of God was written (it is against Jewish law to destroy any such papers). Thus, all contracts, bills of sale, marriage licenses, and the like were placed in the genizah. Needless to say, this find was a treasure trove for medieval Middle Eastern historians. The synagogue is now a museum and is not used for services.