Egypt registers its Jewish artifacts

An Egyptian worker carries out restoration work at Moses Maimonides Temple, the first Jewish temple to be built in Egypt during the 19th century, Cairo, Aug. 20, 2009. (photo by REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Egypt registers its Jewish artifacts

Author: Khalid Hassan

CAIRO — Saeed Helmy, head of the Islamic, Coptic and Jewish Monuments Department at the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, told Al-Monitor that three Jewish cemeteries had been registered with the ministry on April 26 in the areas of al-Shatby 1, al-Shabty 2 and Azarita, in Alexandria governorate. Speaking by phone to Al-Monitor on May 4, Helmy also said that a synagogue at one of the cemeteries had been documented and registered, which would make it an official historical site under the Antiquities Protection Law no. 117 of 1983 and require the ministry to assume responsibility for it.

SummaryPrint Egyptian authorities have begun a process to register and protect Jewish cemeteries and synagogues after decades of neglecting them.

TranslatorPascale el-Khoury

The registrations are the first such moves in regard to Jewish heritage sites following decades of neglect. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, more than half of Egypt’s approximately 80,000 Jews left for Israel. Today, only six are thought to remain. According to the Ministry of Antiquities, only 11 synagogues are still intact, 10 in Cairo and one in Alexandria, and they contain thousands of books on the Jewish community in Egypt as well as birth and marriage registers.

Helmy told Al-Monitor that some of the graves in the registered sites are 170 years old. He further said of the cemeteries, “They include communal graveyards for the working-class…

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