A replica of an ancient Egyptian synagogue arrived in Tel Aviv’s Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People. The model of the magnificent Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue from Alexandria was added to the museum’s permanent collection on Monday, where it joined 20 other models of synagogues from around the world.
The synagogue in Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city, is considered to be the biggest in the Middle East. It was built in its current form in the mid-19th century, but prior to that it was destroyed twice – the last time under the decree of Napoleon. It was later repaired by an Italian architect and financed by members of the local Jewish community together with Sir Moses Montefiore.
In the second century, Rabbi Judah bar Ilai praised the synagogue of Alexandria and its boulevard lined with columns, saying it was so large that he who stood by the chazzan had to wave a flag to signal the praying congregants when to say “Amen.”
In the ancient days of the synagogue, Alexandria was home to a thriving Jewish community. The masterpiece of the spiritual activities in the city was the “Seventy Translation,” which translated biblical verse to Greek. Even the Jewish philosopher, Philon (of Alexandria), lived in the city. In 1940, the Jewish community was 40,000 members strong, but in the years that followed, the numbers dwindled as a result of a fear that the Nazis would advance to Egypt, and following that as a result of the rise of Abdel Nasser’s regime. By the 1990s, only 50 Jews were registered as living there.
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