Historical Synagogues in Egypt

The Egyptian Jewish community is much smaller than it used to be - around 100 practicing Jews live here, mainly in Alexandria and downtown Cairo. To this day, 12 synagogues remain in Egypt.

The Egyptian Jewish community is certainly part of the history of Egypt. The Old Testament states that the Israelites settled in Egypt in the land of Goshen, where they lived multiplied and strengthened until the Pharaoh enslaved them and forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Ramses.

The flight of the Israelites to the Promised Land is recorded in the Book of Exodus, which was supposed to take place during the Ramesside period (about 1320-1237 BC) is not confirmed in Egyptian history. There is only a brief hint that the prophet Jeremiah founded a community in the Egyptian city of Babylon (present-day Cairo) after the destruction of Jerusalem in 585 BC. There is no solid historical foundation until the 2nd century BC when the Jews came to Alexandria through Ptolemy. The Book of Maccabees describes the struggle of the Alexandrian community against anti-Semitism during the Ptolemaic era.

The Jews of Babylon became close to the Egyptians. Together they organized a Jewish revolt against Roman rule (115-117 BC) most likely a support for the Holy Family when Herod's anger made Palestine too dangerous. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are believed to have been hiding in Babylon and Asyut.

As People of the Book, the Jews were treated on an equal footing with the Copts of the Islamic era. They were good traders, jewelers, and moneylenders as they were engaged in money exchange. The Jewish community during the reign of Muhammad Ali numbered approx. 5,000 people.

Until the end of the 19th century, Cairo Jews were mainly concentrated in Harat al-Yahud on Muski, west of al-Muizz Street. Today this area is home to the Maimonides synagogue.

During colonialism, the European Jews came to Egypt were mostly merchants who settled in Cairo and Alexandria. Jewish financiers moved in royal circles and Jewish entrepreneurs opened Cicurel and Ades department stores in a financial and commercial center in Cairo.

After the uprising of Israel in 1948 and Egypt's armed conflicts with Israel, the majority of the population of 75,000 Jews left Egypt, leaving the small community that still exists today.

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