Border with Egypt
Border with Egypt Israel news photo: Flash 90

The new leader of Egypt's Jewish community has said she will refuse Israeli offers of financial help for the renovation of Egypt's ancient synagogues, the website of the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported on Tuesday.

The leader, Magda Haroun, told Al-Ahram that she plans to contact UN heritage organization UNESCO if she fails to find adequate funds for synagogue renovation.

Haroun stressed that Egypt's Jewish monuments belonged to Egypt's historical heritage, which extends over a very long period, saying they “are like the pyramids and the Sphinx. They are a part of Egypt's history that cannot be ignored."

"The sons of this community are Egyptians. We will live forever in Egypt,” she added.

Haroun became the leader of the Egyptian Jewish community following the death of Carmen Weinstein, the previous leader who passed away on Saturday at the age of 84.

Haroun told Al-Ahram she expects to be the shrinking Jewish community's last leader, and, as such, has vowed to protect Egypt's Jewish heritage as much as possible.

Much of the Jewish community in Egypt left the country after the Suez Crisis in 1956 which saw then-president Gamal Abdel Nasser expel Jews who were deemed disloyal to the nation.

Today, Egypt's Jewish population consists of just a few dozen. The community keeps a low profile for fear of being persecuted.

Last month Egyptian security services banned a film about the Jews of Egypt on the eve of its scheduled release.

The film documents the lives of members of the Egyptian Jewish community in the first half of the 20th century, exploring themes of identity and tolerance.

A Muslim Brotherhood official and a senior aide to President Mohammed Morsi recently caused an uproar in Egypt over his remarks that Egyptian Jews should leave Israel and reclaim their properties back at home.

The official, Essam al-Erian, said during a television interview that "it is better for Jews to live in a country like Egypt rather than in a country contaminated by occupation."

He added that the Jews should return immediately to Egypt to "make way for the Palestinian people" and said, "Every Egyptian has the right to come back to Egypt, no matter what his religion."

Erian later sought to dispel the controversy he caused by saying that the "ideology of Zionism" had ended in failure and predicting that Israel will cease to exist within a decade.

He subsequently resigned from his position, with analysts saying that there was no doubt that he was pressured to quit.