Egypt pours millions into restoring historic Alexandria synagogue

Egypt is restoring the centuries-old Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria with the hopes of turning it into a visitors center. 

By Jack Gold, World Israel News

Egypt is devoting $71 million to restore the centuries-old Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria after its ceiling collapsed.

Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities Khaled El Anany announced that “there is importance in renovating the Jewish synagogues, just like the renovation of the Pharaonic, Islamic and Coptic heritage.”

“It is important to remember that the Jewish items and synagogues belong to the Egyptian government,” he said, reported the Yedioth Aharonoth, the Israeli daily, on Wednesday.

“Most of the synagogues in Egypt are in poor condition and must be renovated so they can be turned into visitors’ centers,” El Anany said.

Last year, the Egyptian government approved a $22 million plan to restore the sanctuary.

The synagogue, known as the Jewish Temple in Alexandria, has a seating capacity of more than 700. Originally built in 1354, it was bombed in 1798 when France invaded Egypt. The synagogue was rebuilt in 1850 with contributions from the Muhammad Ali dynasty.

The 150-year-old Sephardic synagogue offers a glimpse of what the Jewish community was like in its prime. The magnificent building, one of the largest synagogues in the Middle East, boasts towering Italian marble columns and was used by the Jewish community in Alexandria, which numbered around 20,000 until the 1930s.

Today, only 17 Jews officially reside in Alexandria.

In September 2016, the Israeli Embassy expressed its willingness to contribute to the restoration of the synagogue.