Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities reaffirmed on Monday that the Egyptian government has allocated EGP 100 million (more than $5 million) toward the restoration of the ancient synagogue in Alexandria.
Yasmin El-Shazly, the General Supervisor of the Department of International Organizations for Cultural and the International Cooperation, also denied reports that the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue has been placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger, reported the website of the Egyptian Al-Ahram newspaper.
El-Shazly said that the funds allocated by the government to finance the restoration of the synagogue began in August and will last for eight months. El-Shazly added that this affirms the Egyptian government's keenness to protect and preserve the synagogue as part of Egypt’s heritage and identity.
El-Shazly stated that the site was declared endangered by the World Monuments Fund, a non-profit NGO that is not part of UNESCO.
El-Shazly said that according to the rules and regulations of this fund, any person or entity can nominate any archaeological building to be placed on the list of this fund without a scientific study proving that the building is in danger.
“The Egyptian government gives equal importance to all its monuments and heritage sites, whether Ancient Egyptian, Jewish, Coptic or Islamic,” El-Shazly asserted.
In July, the Egyptian government announced it approved a $22 million plan to restore the 160-year-old Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, which was forced to close several months earlier after part of its ceiling fell down.
Israel later thanked the Egyptian government for the move.
The Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue is the last active synagogue in Alexandria, which once was home to 50,000 Jews. Estimates today put the number of Jews living in all of Egypt at fewer than 50.
There were between 80,000 and 120,000 Jews in Egypt up until the mid-20th century, but the 1948 War of Independence led to the disintegration of the community, with many leaving Egypt or being forced out under the regime of then-president Gamal Abdel Nasser.