Newly renovated 14th-century synagogue unveiled in Egypt


(JTA) — The Egyptian government unveiled a newly renovated 14th-century synagogue in Alexandria.

The rededication of the Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue, the culmination of a three-year, multi-million-dollar project, took place Friday.

In its current form, the synagogue dates to the 1800s, but was built atop an original building dating to 1354, the Associated Press reported. It can seat over 700 people and is considered one of the largest synagogues in the Middle East.

The synagogue is the last active one in Alexandria, which once was home to up to 40,000 Jews. Today there are a handful of Jews living in Alexandria and estimates put the number of Jews living in all of Egypt at fewer than 20.

Rainwater began leaking through the roof into the women’s section of the synagogue about eight years ago, the French news agency AFP reported. The synagogue was forced to close about three years ago after a staircase and part of the roof collapsed.

Renovations included the structural reinforcement of the synagogue, the restoration of its main facade, decorative walls, and brass and wooden objects, and the development of its security and lighting systems, the Antiquities Ministry said in a statement in December.

“I’m very proud of what my country has done, and it symbolizes 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.

“It is recognition that we have always been here and that we have contributed to a lot of things just like any other Egyptian,” she also said.

Egypt has been publicizing its cultural heritage to increase tourism.

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