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The Ben Ezra Synagogue

Posted On : 26/02/2023 Kate Clark 50
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Located within the winding alleyways of Coopto Cairo, the Ben Ezra Synagogue is the oldest Jewish place of worship originally in the city, dating back to the 9th century AD. c.

Like most synagogues in Egypt, the site is now only a tourist attraction following the abandonment of the almost total Jewish community during the 1950s, following the founding of Israel and the Free Officers' Revolution. However this place retains great importance in the contemporary history of Judaism. The 19th-century discovery of a voluminous document archive, treasured by the synagogue, recording the history of transactions of Cairo's Jewish community since the 11th century, provided one of the most comprehensive accounts of this community's local history. These documents are now held by the University of Cambridge.

According to two different myths, the synagogue was built on the site where the pharaoh's daughter found Moses hiding among the rushes on the banks of the Nile, or on the site of the ancient temple of Jeremiah.

The structure belonged to the Copts until the 9th century as a church dedicated to the Archangel Michael. According to the History of the Patriarchs (official historical text of the Coptic Church), in the year 882 the patriarch Michael III - burdened by a taxation arbitrarily imposed by the greedy caliph Ibn Tulun (870-884) who had also had him imprisoned for induce him to pay him what he asked - he was forced to sell this property to the Jewish community, as well as other places of worship, to obtain the necessary financial resources. 

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By Kate Clark

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