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Egypt: Oldest synagogue in Mideast undergoes restoration

This picture taken on May 14, 2021 shows an aerial view of Egypt's capital Cairo's historic old Cairo district, showing the Mosque of Amr ibn al-Aas (the first mosque established in Egypt in AD 641-642), and the Religious Complex built atop the Babylon-in-Egypt fortress which includes the 10th century Greek Orthodox Church of St George, the Coptic Orthodox Church of St Mary (also known as "The Hanging Church"), and the 19th century Ben Ezra Jewish Synagogue. (Photo by Amir MAKAR / AFP) (Photo by AMIR MAKAR/AFP via Getty Images)
This picture taken on May 14, 2021 shows an aerial view of Egypt's capital Cairo's historic old Cairo district, showing the Religious Complex built atop the Babylon-in-Egypt fortress which includes the 10th century Greek Orthodox Church of St George, the Coptic Orthodox Church of St Mary (also known as "The Hanging Church"), and the 19th century Ben Ezra Jewish Synagogue. [AMIR MAKAR/AFP via Getty Images]

Egypt's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced on Monday that restoration work has begun on the Ben Ezra synagogue in the Religious Complex of Old Cairo.

The restoration work, which includes cleaning walls, treating cracks and insulating the roof will be the first time similar repairs have been carried out since 1991.

Built around 1,200 years ago, the synagogue is believed to be one of – if not the oldest – Jewish temples in the world. It is also home to the Cairo Geniza, a collection of Jewish manuscripts and documents, which "to this day, serves as the main source for writing the history of Eastern Jewish communities," reported Haaretz.

According to the Secretary-General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, Ben Ezra "is of great importance as it is the oldest synagogue in Egypt and the Middle East".

READ: US synagogue declares itself to be 'anti-Zionist' 

The head of the Islamic, Coptic and Jewish Antiquities Sector at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Osama Talaat, explained that the temple was named after religious scholar and Jewish philosopher Ezra.

The project over the past five years has aimed at conserving the small number of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in Egypt and is being carried out by the tiny Egyptian Jewish community with US funding and cooperation with the Egyptian authorities.

Professor Yoram Meital of Israel's Ben-Gurion University's Middle East Studies Department and who is involved in the project told Haaretz: "Continuing this welcome process of conserving Jewish heritage as part of Egypt's heritage depends on the wide support of Egypt's government and society."

READ: Egypt wins international award for restoring Alexandria synagogue

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