Center for the Heritage of Egyptian Jewry

     The Heritage Center of Egyptian Jewry, is being established these days by l'Union des Juifs d'Egyte in Tel-Aviv, as the first Center of its kind in Israel and worldwide. 

Objectives: 

     The objectives of the Center are to preserve, display and teach the history and heritage of the Jews of Egypt. There are three main aspects: social, religious and cultural. This heritage of more than 2500 years not only relates to Egyptian-Jewish history, but forms the historical basis of the entire people of Israel. 

     In fact, a common boundary between Israel and Egypt brought the two countries into constant and continuous interaction from the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, until modern times.

Back to the dawn of History: 

     The first archaeological mention of Israel in Egypt is on the Israel Stele, exhibited at the Cairo Pharaonic Museum, where Israel appears as a people defeated by the son of Ramses II, Merneptah (1213-1203 BC). Later Egyptian texts from the 12th, 8th and 4th centuries BC refer to political contacts between Israel and Egypt. 

     As it is written in the Bible, the Prophet Jeremiah went down to Egypt 2,500 years ago after the fall of Jerusalem, taking with him thousands of Jewish refugees who settled and prospered in Egyptian towns mentioned in the Bible - Migdol, Nof, Takhpanhess and Pathros. A rich Jewish settlement from that period has been discovered in Elephantine Island, in southern Egypt, as well as the Jewish Temple built during the reign of Ptolemy V by the Jewish priest Onias (in Hebrew: Honio, one of the Cohanim) in Leontopolis, situated not far from the Cairo of today. Since then, Jews have always lived in Egypt, even if they have not always flourished. 

Concept, display system and social history: 

     The Center will take visitors on a fascinating journey to meet key figures among the Jews of Egypt throughout recorded time: The vibrant Hellenistic period, when a million Jews lived and flourished in Egypt and Libya; Roman times featuring Philo of Alexandria, the great Hellenistic Jew and philosopher, and the Bible of the Septuagint (translated into Greek for Ptolemy II). Then we cover the Dhimma status, with its ups and downs for Jews under Islamic rule in Egypt, Rav Saadia Gaon el-Fayoumi, Ha-Rambam (Maimonides), the Neguidim, Yaaoub Ibn Killis, who became (Grand) Vizier of Egypt and built the El-Azhar University in Cairo, and of course the (priceless store of medieval documents known as the) Genizah.

     The Golden Era of the Jews of Egypt in the 19th and 20th centuries will have a special space devoted to it, with its great contribution to the development of Egypt as well as to the Yishuv before 1948. Jewish immigrants from all over Europe and the Middle East were absorbed into Egypt. Jewish institutions were established in Cairo and Alexandria and other towns, synagogues, Jewish schools, Jewish hospitals, orphanages and welfare organizations, all renowned for their efficiency. And of course we cover the Israel-Egypt conflict which led to the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the Jews from Egypt, and to their great contribution to the countries which absorbed them as refugees.         

     All this through multi-media projections, photographs, maps, graphics, audio-visual material, using all the latest technology - together with a  collection of religious artifacts, Sifrei Torah, Egyptian Hanukiot, Genizah fragments and reproductions, and, of course, objects from everyday life : the Makhrata, the Hon, ancient embroidery, the Egyptian tarbush, etc. 

A library for visitors and scholars will complete the Heritage Center, with its collection of old Egyptian prayer books, Siddurim and Pessah Haggadot in two languages, examples of a Jewish Press in many languages, Egyptian Kabbalah books, as well as recent histories and memoirs.

The Center  Activities:  

- The Center will be open for tourists as well as students and scholars.

- The Center will initiate and organize special guided tours for primary and secondary schools pupils.

- Conferences on the Heritage and Multiculturalism of the Jews of Egypt will be organized in the Center, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and other Israeli authorities.

- International conferences and meetings on the Jews of Egypt History and Heritage will be held in the Center.

- An Egyptian movie will be projected once a month, with Egyptian delicacies served.

- Culinary festivals and competitions will be held, with demonstrations of Egyptian-Jewish recipes.

- The Center will initiate Egyptian Folklore and Music Festivals, in collaboration with the best artists in Israel.

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