Show themes

A Synagogue in Old Cairo

Discarded History

Public life in Fustat (Old Cairo) centred on religious institutions: the synagogue, the church, the mosque. For the Jews of Palestinian heritage, the Ben Ezra Synagogue, known in the Middle Ages as ‘the Synagogue of the Palestinians’ or ‘of the Jerusalemites’, was the community’s most important social hub. It provided a place for worship, education, public business, and charity. The congregation prayed there three times a day, sent their children to study the Hebrew Bible, and assembled to exchange news and collect the charitable donations that supported the poor, the sick and refugees. People were proud of their magnificent building, and the wealthy donated cash for its upkeep, colourful hangings for its walls, and books and scrolls for its library.