Egypt restores historic synagogue

Egypt reopened a historic synagogue in the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria after a years-long government renovation.

But only a handful of Jews remain from Egypt’s once-thriving community, most of them elderly. The country’s Jews largely left more than 60 years ago amid the hostilities between Egypt and Israel.

The two-story Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue in Alexandria partially collapsed in 2016.

Antiquities officials said the renovations, which began the following year, prevented it from becoming a total loss.

The site has a long history. An earlier synagogue dating to 1354 was built in the same location, and the current building dates to roughly 1881, when the Jewish community was large and influential. Marble floors and rose-colored columns line the main hall.

“I’m very proud of what my country has done, and it symbolises living together; today there is no difference between Egyptian Muslim, Christian and Egyptian Jew,” said Magda Haroun, the head of Cairo’s Jewish community, at the reopening ceremony.

Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue is one of two remaining Jewish houses of worship in Alexandria. The city alone had some 40,000 Jews in the 1940s, half of the country’s Jewish population, according to the official page of Alexandria province.

The Jewish community’s modern exodus from Egypt began in 1948, after the creation of the State of Israel.

More Jews left for Israel and the West after the 1956 Suez war.

Amid the war, animosity in Egypt increased toward Jews.

Egypt was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel in 1979.


Subscribe to EJC newsletter

Get EJC's bi-weekly newsletter, including the latest statements and news from the European Jewish communities, direct to your inbox.

European Jewish Congress will use the information you provide on this form to contact you. We will treat your information with respect and will not share it with others. By clicking Subscribe, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

browse by community