A Bittersweet Homecoming for Egypt’s JewsBreaking News
tags: Jewish history, Egypt
Mrs. Wolanski’s mission was part of a much larger homecoming for Egypt’s Jewish community, which at its peak numbered 80,000 and is now racing toward extinction.
Last weekend, 180 Jews from Europe, Israel and the United States traveled to the city of Alexandria on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast to attend religious ceremonies at a historic synagogue that was rescued from ruin. It was the largest such gathering of Jews in Egypt since they were pressured to leave during the Arab-Israeli wars of the 1950s and 1960s.
Egypt’s government paid for the $4 million synagogue renovation — part of a longstanding drive to rescue the country’s crumbling Jewish heritage which President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has stepped up.
Last year, Mr. el-Sisi ordered the renovation of a badly dilapidated Jewish cemetery which is one of the oldest in the world.
And he supported a scholarship project, run with the help of an Israeli scholar, that uncovered a rare, 1,000-year-old Hebrew Bible.
But Mr. el-Sisi’s embrace of Egyptian Jews is also awkward and laced with contradictions. The visit of 180 Jews took place under a news media blackout, with no coverage in Egyptian outlets, and amid iron-tight security by Egyptian officials who at times outnumbered their visitors.
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