Egypt's Antiquities Ministry on Thursday announced plans to carry out extensive renovations of a synagogue in Alexandria — despite the fact that, under Egyptian law, the local Jewish community should bear the cost of such restorations.
"The renovation of Alexandria's Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue will take about eight months and cost some 100 million Egyptian pounds [roughly $5.5 million], which will be provided by the Egyptian government," the ministry said in a statement.
According to the same statement, the government had already allocated 1.27 billion Egyptian pounds (roughly $70.5 million) towards eight major historical renovation projects.
In July, Al-Said Helmy Ezzat, head of the ministry's Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Department, announced that proposals to renovate the historical synagogue had been approved and the appropriate financial allocations made.
Under Egyptian law, however, Egypt's small Jewish community should bear the cost of the project and the reason for the apparent exception remains unclear.
Cash-strapped Egypt continues to face difficult economic circumstances, with the government implementing an IMF-approved reform program, which includes the reduction of government subsidies and which has led to skyrocketing commodity prices.
Built in 1848, Alexandria's Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue is one of the largest Jewish synagogues in the Middle East region, capable of accommodating up to 700 people.
It also houses an impressive library containing dozens of ancient Torah scrolls, some of which date back to the 15th century.