Egyptian Jews celebrate Cairo synagogue reopening

Scores of Egyptian Jews on Sunday celebrated the reopening of the Moshe Ben Maimon synagogue in Cairo following the completion of restoration works.

Newly-appointed Israeli ambassador to Egypt Yitzhak Levanon attended the celebration, along with the US and Canadian ambassadors and French embassy officials. Officials from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), however, which funded the restoration operation, did not attend.

Festivities took place amid a heavy security presence, with police cordoning off a 500-meter area around the synagogue. Local residents were banned from leaving their homes during the event and were ordered to keep their windows tightly closed. All shops in the district were shut for the duration of the event.

In advance of the celebration, Cairo Provincial Authority workers had cleaned the area, paved the sidewalks and painted nearby building facades.

Israeli embassy security personnel, in charge of security inside the synagogue, barred Egyptian journalists from entering the building to cover the event. A Jewish reporter from Israeli daily Haaretz was also denied entry for lacking an official permit.

Jewish rabbis lit candles, sang hymns and performed ritual dances during the celebration, which began with a word by Carmen Weinstein, head of Egypt’s Jewish community. This was followed by speeches by a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt and the head of France’s Jewish community, both of whom extended thanks to the Egyptian government for restoring the synagogue.

Notably, SCA Secretary-General Zahi Hawass had earlier rejected a request by Weinstein to invite a number of Israeli government officials to the celebration.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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