In Egypt, a Synagogue Renovation Elicits Complicated Feelings About Preserving Jewish History

October 24, 2009

Author: Matti Friedman and Hadeel Al-Shalchi

Source: The Star Tribune

Wire Service: AP

The warren of slum alleys is called the Jews' Quarter, but no Jews live there. The ancient synagogue still stands, but its roof is gone. The government is renovating it, but is doing so at a moment when anti-Israel feeling is running especially high in Egypt.

The Ben Maimon synagogue exemplifies this country's conflicted relationship with its Jewish past.

The Jewish community that once flourished in the Arab world's most populous nation left behind physical traces ranging from grand temples in central Cairo and Alexandria to a holy man's humble grave in a Nile Delta village. But the modern-day Egyptian view of those relics lies within a narrow spectrum ranging from disinterest to outright hostility.