Ben Ezra Synagogue is one of the Jewish synagogues in Cairo. It locates on Old Cairo and it is considered one of the most important touristic attractions in this area, especially, after the Egyptian government made some restorations to it.
The library of Ben Ezra Synagogue includes the most precious books and Jewish researchers that date the life and existence of the Jews in Egypt.
This synagogue was originally a church called “El-Shamaeen”, Saint Michael Church. When the Orthodox Church faced a financial stringency as a result of taxation imposed by Ahmed Ibn Tulun, the church was sold to the Jews.
The Synagogue of Ben Ezra was named after one of the greatest rabbis called Ezra. The synagogue is called also Palestinians Synagogue or Levant Synagogue.
The researchers and modern Jews called it the Genizah synagogue, referring to the Genizah documents that were found at the synagogue in 1890.
After the selling of the church to the Jews in 882, it was demolished and became a synagogue. Over time, the synagogue was neglected until a decree was issued by demolishing it.
The Canadian Center for Architecture has renewed the synagogue of Ben Ezra and it became a touristic place.
According to the Judaism, the Genizah documents shall not be neglected or removed because such documents include the name of the God.
Instead, it shall be kept in an isolated room for the next generation and after a certain period, it must be buried in the tombs.
The Genizah documents at Ben Ezra Synagogue date the news and living conditions of Jews in Egypt for many centuries. These documents are divided into a documentary and literary sources.
According to Jewish books, the spot on which the Synagogue of Ben Ezra was built instead of St. Michael Church was a place used by the Prophet Moses to pray after when the plague has spread in Egypt.
It has been used also by the majority of the Jewish denominations in Egypt throughout history, such as Iraqi Jews, Ashkenazi, and the Sephardi Jews.
According to the Jewish books, this synagogue was dominated by the rabbinic Jews after the transfer of the Karaite Jewish to Cairo in the Fatimid era.
The synagogue of Ben Ezra in Cairo is consists of two floors for prayers like any other synagogue. The ground floor is for men, while the upper floor is for women.
The synagogue contains two rows of marble columns; each column has an upper crown. The two rows divide the synagogue into three aisles; the central aisle is the largest one and it contains a hole for light and ventilation.
At the middle of the central aisle, you can see the preaching platform and the worshippers’ seats around it. The Torah was read in this area.
At the eastern part of the Ben Ezra Synagogue, you will see the structure, which contains the Ark of the Covenant and Torah scrolls.
A lot of tourists around the world, with different nationalities and religions, come to Egypt and visit the Synagogue of Ben Ezra because of its historical and aesthetic value.
Inside the synagogue of Ben Ezra, there is something called “Bema”, which is similar to the Islamic pulpit. It is a Jewish platform with a very small balcony and a set of stairs.
At the end of the Bema, there is a relatively long wall, which is engraved with a copy of the ancient Torah.
In the front of the temple is the structure, which consists of several parts; the first part has two candlesticks with six candles; three on the right, three on the north, and another on the middle, which is called Star of David.
There is also a deep well behind the temple, where Jews believe that Moses’s mother hidden him when he was a child.
On the eastern side near the choir is a high platform, on which the Ark of the Covenant is found. The Ark is not seen because it is blocked by a carved door and a curtain from inside.
The decorative forms of Ben Ezra Synagogue reflect many metaphors and the art of different eras like Byzantine and Islamic.
According to Dr. Adel Mansour, the archeologist: the Synagogue of Ben Ezra in Cairo contains small rooms that were intended to store the offerings that were distributed to the Jews during the Jewish celebrations and events, as well as another adjacent room used by the servants of the temple for housing.
He continued: the synagogue also contains a number of small rooms that contain some of the objects of the temple. Some women were using these rooms to put their belongings during celebrations and performing the rituals.
The synagogue also contains a library that contains some books, which tell the history of the temple and Jewish in Egypt.
Some manuscripts, written in Arabic and Hebrew, dating back to the pre-Middle Ages and it mentioned the politics, economics, and social life of Jews under the Arab Islamic rule in Egypt.
Dr. Adel Mansour emphasized that some of these manuscripts talked about the relationship between Jews and other denominations in Egypt and the way Jews dealt with Muslim Arabs.
There are also a rare number of ancient translations for Torah, in addition to various parts of the Old Testament that were added to the rest of the manuscripts, which were discovered and written before Islam.
Read also; Amazing museums in Egypt you must visit.