As an inseparable part of the Alexandrian heritage that was about to fade, the restoration of the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, known as the Jewish Temple, took place. For years, the building was facing the danger of total collapse, without any interference from officials, a fact that is about to change after the Ministry of Antiquities allocated EGP 40m for its renovation process.
Abandoned in the middle of Alexandria’s historical El-Naby Daniel Street, the timeworn, racked building is the second biggest synagogue in the world and the first in the Middle East.
Earlier this year, the ceiling of the synagogue collapsed, causing its closure until it is fully restored.
The restoration process will include the construction of the temple as well as the architectural design, according to a statement by El-Sa’eed Helmy, head of the Islamic and Coptic Relics department at the Ministry of Antiquities, to one of the privately owned newspapers in Egypt.
The ministry will start the restoration process once it is approved by the ministry’s board of directors in the upcoming general meeting. However, according to El-Sa’eed, Article 30 of laws no.117, 3, and 61 state that the Jewish community in Egypt should be the financing body for renovating the temple, as they are the advantaged body.
The synagogue was built in 1354 and was the subject of bombardment by French forces in 1798. It was restored in the 1850s by the then-ruling Egyptian royal family.
According to state-owned media portal Al-Ahram, the Ministry of Antiquities previously refused Israeli funding to restore the temple. In 2016, Israeli Minister David Govrin had offered funding for the restoration of the temple, yet he was met with instant refusal.
El-Sa’eed explained that “Egypt has a clear direct stand from Israel, and it doesn’t accept any money from it,” according to Al-Ahram.
“The temple is located on Egyptian lands, and we would never accept Israeli money to renovate our heritage,” he added.
The ancient building’s mirror front is full of cracks, and the walls are in a “severe deterioration phase”, as Waad Allah Abu El-Alaa’, a project engineer at the ministry described.
“The building’s glass is very rare, so in order to reproduce a similar type of the glass that there was in 1910, it costs us a lot of money,” he added.