By Asiatologist (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Asiatologist (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Restoration will take a year to complete

Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities' Project Sector has given its approval to restore Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria. Funds amounting to $22 million have been released for this purpose. The concerned synagogue is dated to be 160 years old. The Eliyahu synagogue is the largest in the Middle East. It can seat a total of 700 people.

Head of the Islamic and Coptic Monuments Department, al-Saeed Helmy Ezzat, made the announcement. As per Ezzat, the synagogue was compelled to bar entry to the public after a part of the ceiling crashed to the floor. The minister said that although the country's law asks the community to provide repair funds, the Egyptian Government will provide funds for restoration. The synagogue is the only remaining Jewish place of worship which continues to be operational. The city of Alexandria was once home to about 50,000 people following the Jewish faith. Egypt at present has only 50 Jews.

The Eliyahu Hanavi’s original structure was constructed in the 14th century. Worshipers from all over the region gaped at the grand facade. The huge interior had the capacity to house thousands of the faithful. All these came to an end after Israel came into existence at the end of the Second World War. Most Egyptian Jews migrated to their new home. The building quickly fell into disrepair. It was inevitable that the first-floor ceiling will collapse-and it did.

The Egyptian Government, in its nod to religious minorities living in Egypt, had pledged money to repair the structure. A total of eight monuments will be repaired. This decision, however, has struck observers as a strange one, as the Jewish population in Egypt is now counted in double digits. The government previously also had shown an unwillingness to engage with its Jewish citizens.

A quick visit to the site revealed engineers surveying the damage. There was a lot of damage. Groundwater had displaced the tiles. The pews were abandoned, with the only light coming in from the stained-glass windows during the day. The wooden furniture continues to have metal plaques which has the names of the former congregants who left many years before. Engineers present in the site has estimated that the prestige project will take one year to complete. This pressure to reconstruct has come from Jewish exiles scattered all over the world.

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