(JTA) — Algeria intends to reopen synagogues that were shuttered in the 1990s for security reasons, an Algerian government minister said.
The statement about Algeria’s synagogues by Religious Affairs Minister Mohamed Aissa was published Thursday on the online edition of the Algerian daily Liberte.
“There is a Jewish community in Algeria which is greeted in our cities and it has a right to exist,” Aissa is quoted as saying earlier this week at a conference organized in the capital Algiers by Liberte.
Algeria, he added, “is prepared to reopen Jewish places of worship.” But he said that “for the moment the state does not plan to do this right away because of security reasons. We need to first set up security arrangements before we open them up for worshippers.”
Tens of thousands of people died in terrorist attacks and government reprisals in Algeria during the 1990s during an insurgency by the Armed Islamic Group.
The number of Jews living in Algeria is not known, according to the Jeune Afrique magazine, but historians estimate the country’s Jewish population is made up of a handful of people who practice their faith in secret for fear of being targeted by Islamic extremists.
Algeria used to have more than 100,000 Jews, but the vast majority of them left after the State of Israel was established in 1948 and during Algeria’s bloody war of independence against France.