BEFORE AND AFTER THE TEMPLE. Synagogues built before and after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple share many similarities. During both periods, synagogues were communal buildings with benches along the walls. Often columns divided the main hall into a central space with side aisles. The major architectural difference between the two structures is the Torah Shrine. Whereas the Second Temple-period synagogue at Modi‘in (left) lacks this feature, it is the focal point of the Beth Alpha synagogue (right) from the sixth century. In the Beth Alpha synagogue, the Torah Shrine is situated in a semicircular apse in the Jerusalem-facing wall.